Here’s a question I get asked all the time: If I have my property cleared of unwanted trees, shrubs and brush, can I burn the debris?

If you live in Davidson County (Metro Nashville), the answer is no.

A regulation put into effect in the 1980s by the Environmental Protection Agency prohibits all open burning in the entirety of Davidson county, “for the purpose of preventing, abating, and controlling air pollution caused by air contaminants discharged into the air from open burning.”

You can view the full burn ban in Davidson County regulation here.

Can I get a special permit to burn in Davidson County?

Unfortunately, no. The fire department does not issue special permits giving permission to burn.

So what should I do with my debris instead?

Metro Nashville provides brush pickup four times each year on 12 different routes. Visit the Nashville Public Works Brush and Leaf Collection page to view the upcoming dates for your neighborhood.

You’ll also want to pay close attention on how to prepare your debris for pickup, as it should be placed as close to the curb as possible and away from trees or mailboxes. In addition, leaves and grass clippings should be placed in brown paper bags. Plastic bags won’t be picked up.

Isn’t picking up debris noisy?

If a traditional wood chipper is used, yes, the process can be noisy. However, Metro Nashville uses knuckle boom trucks, which haul away the debris in trailers.

What if these pickups don’t come to my neighborhood?

If this is the case, then you are one of the extremely rare exceptions to the open burn ban. If pickup isn’t available, then you do have the ability to burn leaves and small tree limbs (less than 3 inches in diameter), but it is very highly recommended that you call the Metro Nashville Fire Department before doing so.

If you have a pickup truck available to you, another option is to deliver your debris and yard waste to one of three disposal locations for free. Again, visit the Nashville Public Works Brush and Leaf Collection page for addresses and availability.

And a third option — if you’re simply looking to dispose of leaves — is to create a compost pile. Composting is permitted in Davidson County and bins and other composting supplies are available for purchase from Metro Beautification. Visit the Nashville Public Works Composting page for additional information on how to compost effectively.

What about recreational fires?

If you’re just looking to have a couple of friends over to sit around a small fire to roast marshmallows, know that backyard fire pits and chimeneas are legal in Davidson County, with a couple of stipulations. They must be made of clay, steel, or concrete and kept at least 15 feet from your home. In addition, only solid fuels like firewood can be burned — no paper, plastic, or rubber.

If you live in an apartment or condo, know that you cannot have a portable fireplace or grill on your deck or patio. These are prohibited.

Do you still have questions about burning in Davidson County?

If you have questions about anything regarding open burning or portable fireplaces, I recommend visiting www.nashville.gov, the official website for the Metro Nashville and Davison County government. You can also call the Nashville Fire Marshall directly at 615-862-5230.

If your land has recently been cleared and you are ready to re-plant trees, we have an article with the most popular trees in Davidson County ready for you. Still looking for ways to clear your land, don’t miss our post about this.