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Smoke coming out of a chimmney

Wood heaters, burning off can create issues for you and neighbours

Friday 14 June

Many people in East Gippsland rely on wood heaters to warm their homes, but there are steps residents need to take to minimise smoke to ensure it is not an issue for other people in the area.


The cooler months has brought an increase in smoke as people have begun using their wood heaters or burning off vegetation.


Under council’s General Local Law, burning off is only allowed as part of fire hazard clearance works, Acting Director Development Aaron Hollow explained.


“People are not allowed to just burn off garden waste or leaves. Burn offs are only allowed for clearing vegetation for fire hazard clearances,” Mr Hollow said.


Anyone wishing to burn off in residential areas for fire hazard clearance purposes needs to contact council. Officers will inspect the property to see whether the burn off is required.


“The penalty for not following the laws regarding burning off is a $1000 fine. Council also reminds residents that free green waste disposal is available at 11 council landfills and transfer stations.”


Wood heating is the most feasible form of heating for many of residents, based on where they live and when their home was built.


However, wood heaters can cause pollution through excessive smoke if not used correctly.


“All slow combustion wood heaters emit smoke when they are first lit or fuel is added. However, they should not emit excessive smoke for long periods if they are operated correctly and are well maintained.


“The amount of smoke a fire makes depends on how much oxygen is available, how hot the fire is, and how dry and well-seasoned the wood is,” Mr Hollow said.


“Excessive smoke from wood heaters affects air quality.


"This can affect people with heart or lung issues, and can affect your neighbours’ enjoyment of their home, impacting their ability to open windows, go outside or dry laundry on the clothesline.


“Anyone who is impacted by excessive smoke can speak to our Environmental Health Officers for advice on what to discuss with their neighbour.


"If the issue can’t be resolved informally, a complaint can be lodged with council and we will investigate,” Mr Hollow said.


Below are some simple steps on correctly operating a wood heater:

  • Always burn dry seasoned wood as fuel - unseasoned wood contains a lot of moisture and will cause excessive smoke and your flue will clog more quickly.
  • To season wood yourself, stack it in a dry, well ventilated area for at least 8 to 12 months
  • When lighting a cold heater, always use sufficient kindling to establish a good fire quickly
  • Use small logs - three or four small logs will burn more efficiently than one large log, producing more heat and less smoke
  • Make sure your fire only smokes for a short time when you first light it or when you add extra fuel - you can help keep this to a minimum by opening the air intake fully for 15 to 20 minutes whenever you reload your fire
  • Never leave your heater to smoulder overnight. This starves the fire of oxygen, producing more smoke and air pollution.
  • Go outside and regularly check your chimney - if there is smoke your fire needs attention. Adjust the fuel load and increase the air settings.

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