Commissioners revise countywide burn ban to allow for agricultural exception

The Berks County Commissioners have modified the countywide burn ban to include an exception for burning that is directly related to normal agricultural operations.

The ban on all open outdoor burning went into effect on Sunday, April 16, 2023, at 6 p.m. after the Commissioners received a written recommendation from the Berks County Department of Emergency Services and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, at the request of 19 Fire Chiefs and Fire Wardens throughout Berks.

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The request was made due to the existing dry and dangerous burning conditions throughout the County and sub-average rainfall. The combination of those conditions creates a great risk of fire that would require a soaking rain to alleviate the danger. The recommendation also noted a significant increase in the number and size of brush and wildfires in Berks recently.

During the Commissioners Board Meeting on April 20, the Commissioners agreed to modify the burn ban to allow for burning related to normal agricultural operations. The definition of “normal agricultural operations” is activities, practices, equipment, and procedures that farmers adopt, use, or engage in the production and preparation for market of poultry, livestock, and their products and in the production, harvesting and preparation for market or use of agricultural, agronomic, horticultural, silvicultural and aquacultural crops and commodities.

These operations must take place on properties that are not less than 10 contiguous acres, or properties that are less than 10 contiguous acres but have an anticipated yearly gross income of at least $10,000.

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The burn ban is in place until May 15, 2023, but can be further modified or removed earlier by resolution of the Commissioners.

Open burning is defined as the ignition and subsequent burning of any combustible material, which includes garbage, leaves, twigs, wood, litter, paper, vegetative matter, and any sort of debris, outside, either in a burn barrel, backyard fire pit or on the ground.

The use of propane or gas stoves, charcoal briquette grills, and the use of tobacco in any form is not affected by this ban. While the County believes the ban should be universal, the DCNR’s definition of burn ban allows campfires in fire rings that confine and contain the campfire in a designated state, federal or Department of Environmental Protection licensed campground.

The burn ban may be enforced by any sworn police officer, including the Pennsylvania State Police and all police departments of Berks County municipalities. Any individual that violates this burn ban commits a summary offense that can be punishable with a fine.

The County asks all residents to please abide by this ban to help reduce the risk of wildfires and protect our forests and properties.

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