Reminder: Yard Waste Disposal and Burning Restrictions

(March 5, 2018 - North Cowichan, BC) With spring around the corner, many of us are thinking about cleaning up our yards and disposing of debris that has accumulated over the winter. Instead of burning, North Cowichan encourages you to compost at home, utilize a wood chipper, or take your yard waste, free of charge, to one of the Cowichan Valley Regional Districts (CVRDs) recycling facilities.

Recent studies have found that total particulate matter less than 2.5 microns is the air quality contaminant of concern in the Cowichan Region, and the leading cause of these emissions is open burning, says Mayor Jon Lefebure. Accordingly, residents are encouraged to use other means of disposing of yard waste to reduce the volume of fine particulate matter being discharged into the air.

Anyone burning yard waste must adhere to local and provincial guidelines and restrictions. New this year in North Cowichan, residents should be aware that open burning is restricted on properties within the urban containment boundary (UCB) because these areas have the highest density of homes and businesses that can be adversely affected by smoke. Specifically:

  • A burning permit is required to burn yard waste on any property within the UCB that is 2 acres or greater.
  • Open burns are entirely prohibited on any property within the UCB that is less than 2 acres (this excludes campfires).
  • Burning can only occur during the windows of March 15 - April 15 AND September 15 - November 30.
  • Burning can only occur when the Provincial venting index is good.

There are roughly 195 properties within the UCB that are greater than 2 acres, and therefore eligible to receive a burning permit. Burning permits are free of charge and can typically be obtained from North Cowichan within a day.


There is an online map tool to help residents easily confirm whether their property is within the UCB. To use the tool, simply open the map, type an address into the search bar, and click enter.

There is a comprehensive description of burning restrictions and instructions on how to obtain a burning permit at

The CVRD solid waste management and recycling facilities that accept yard waste are:

  • Bings Creek Solid Waste Management Complex, 3900 Drinkwater Road, Duncan. Open daily 8:00am to 5:00pm.
  • Peerless Road Drop-Off Depot, 10830 Westdowne Road, Ladysmith. Check the website or call to confirm hours.

The CVRD Recycling Hotline can be reached at 250-746-2540.


Frequently Asked Questions

When is a burning permit required?

A burning permit is required for any property that is: 1) located within the urban containment boundary, and 2) at least 2 acres in size. Backyard burning is entirely prohibited on properties within the UCB that are less than 2 acres in size. Backyard burning is allowed without a permit on properties outside the UCB. In all cases, the venting index must be "good" and burning windows must be followed.

Why is open burning largely prohibited within the UCB?

Recent studies have found that 53% of total PM2.5 emissions in the Cowichan Valley resulted from open burning. North Cowichan has significantly restricted open burning within the urban containment boundaries because these areas have the highest density of homes and businesses that can be adversely affected by smoke.

Do I need a new permit each time I burn?

A burning permit allows you to burn multiple times within a single burn window (March 15 - April 15 OR September 15 - November 30), as long as burning requirements are met (e.g. venting index is "good," etc.). A new permit is required for each spring and fall burning window.

Why bother obtaining a permit to burn?

North Cowichans Fire Protection Bylaw requires anyone burning within the urban containment boundary to have a permit to do so.

The permit system allows North Cowichan to confirm that burning requirements are being followed and to be informed of what burning may be taking place and when. The permitting system helps North Cowichan to respond knowledgeably to complaints that may be received and avoid unnecessary call-outs to Fire Departments.

Any individual found to be burning outside of the requirements (e.g. without a permit, in an area where open burning is not allowed, when the venting index is not good) is liable for a fine under the Provincial Open Burning Smoke Control Regulation (up to $200,000) and North Cowichan's Fire Protection Bylaw (initial fine amount $250, second offence $500, third offence $1,000).

Can I have small fires or campfires in my backyard?

Unless there is a complete campfire ban issued by the provincial Wildfire Management Branch, then campfires (less than 0.5m3) are allowed throughout the Municipality, including within the UCB. 

How do I know when the Provincial venting index is good? 

Go to the Provincial venting index webpage ( and scroll down to "SRN VANCOUVER ISLAND" OR call 1-888-281-2992 for a recorded message of the daily venting index for Southern Vancouver Island.

How do these restrictions apply to registered, Class 9 farms? 

Burning completed under normal farm practices as defined in the Right To Farm Act is exempt from the requirements of North Cowichan's Fire Protection Bylaw, provided that the land on which the burning takes place is appropriately zoned to allow farming as a land use and is part of a legitimate farm business.

How do these restrictions apply to Category 3 burns? 

Category 3 burns are fires larger than 2m high by 3m wide or where multiple piles are being burned concurrently, typically to burn debris from land clearing or development. Category 3 burns are not allowed at all within the urban containment boundary. Category 3 burns are allowed outside the urban containment boundary only when used in conjunction with an air curtain burner.