Environmental Health and Air Quality
Wood heaters are a great way to heat your home, however smoke from wood heaters can also be a major source of pollution.
Wood smoke can be a nuisance not only around your home but also in your neighbourhood. It is also a health hazard because wood smoke can contain fine particles and toxic compounds that can cause breathing difficulties and respiratory problems, especially for people suffering existing respiratory conditions, such as asthmatics, and for very young children and frail older people.
Some simple steps to reduce wood smoke pollution are:
- Don’t let your heater smoulder overnight: keep enough air in the fire to maintain a flame.
- Burn only dry, aged hardwood in your wood heater. Unseasoned wood has lots of moisture, which causes a fire to smoke.
- Store your wood under cover in a dry, ventilated area. Freshly cut wood needs to be stored for at least eight to twelve months.
- Never burn rubbish, driftwood or painted or treated wood as these can produce poisonous gases.
- When lighting a cold heater, use plenty of dry kindling to establish a good fire quickly.
- Use several small logs rather than one large log and stack them loosely in your heater, so air can circulate around them. Don’t cram the firebox full.
- Keep the flame lively and bright. Your fire should only smoke when you first light it and when you add extra fuel. Open the air controls fully for five minutes before and 15 to 20 minutes after reloading the heater.
- Check your chimney regularly to see how well your fire is burning. If there is smoke coming from the chimney, increase the air supply to your fire.
- Have the chimney cleaned every year to prevent creosote build-up.
- If you are buying a wood heater, make sure it has a compliance plate showing it meets the Australian Standard (AS/NZS 4013:1999).
For more information visit the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) website or NSW Health's Wood burning heaters and your health page.
Installation of new wood heaters
Under section 68 of the NSW Local Government Act 1993, you must seek Council approval prior to the installation of an new wood heater. For more information, please visit our Applications page.
Under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2021, burning of vegetation and domestic waste in the open or unauthorised incinerator is generally prohibited except by approval in the Uralla Shire.
The Clean Air Regulation permits certain prescribed activities which do not require approval, including:
- Cooking, barbequing, or lighting, maintaining, and using a fire for recreational purposes such as camping, picnicking, scouting or other similar outdoor activities, so long as only dry seasoned wood, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas or proprietary barbecue fuel, including a small quantity of fire starter.
- As part of an agricultural operation on premises on which the vegetation grew, to burn vegetation for the purpose of clearing, prunings, diseased crops, weeds or pest animal habitats on farms, or burning of pasture for regenerative purposes as set out in the Regulation.
- Training and instruction in methods of fire fighting by an appropriate person acting in in their official capacity as set out in the Regulation.
- The conduct of a hazard reduction burn under the authority of and in accordance with, a bush fire hazard reduction certificate issued under the Rural Fires Act 1997.
- In an incinerator which is licenced and meets the requirements of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 and the Regulation.
- The burning of domestic waste on the residential premises on which the waste was generated, if domestic waste management services are not available to those premises.
Please note that other restrictions may be in force and advice should be sought prior to lighting a fire permitted by the Regulation. Permits must be obtained during the declared Bush Fire Danger Period. No fires are permitted to be lit in the open air during a declared Total Fire Ban Day.
Contact Council or the EPA if you have questions about what is permitted and if you need open burning approval under the Clean Air Regulation.
Heavy smoke from bushfires can travel vast distances and affect the air quality a great distance from the fire, and depending on weather conditions can linger for long periods of time.
Bushfire smoke can impact people's health and it is important to reduce exposure:
- Seek medical advice if you are experiencing any adverse reactions to dust or smoke, such as shortness of breath, prolonged coughing or wheezing.
- Avoid vigorous outdoor activities when air quality is poor.
- Spend more time indoors and use air conditioners in recirculate mode.
- Avoid indoor sources of air pollution, such as cigarettes, candles, and incense.
Visit the NSW Health website for more information on how to protect your health from bushfire smoke.
For more information on personal health and safety during a bushfire, please visit our Disaster Planning page here.