MIKE MOSS SAYS: Jeff, While there aren't a lot of real precise guidelines as to thresholds to follow in whether to burn or not, some general principles do apply. Bad times to burn would be when the nearby grasses, wooded areas or vegetated fields are especially dry due to lack of rainfall and/or extended periods of warm weather with low humidity, and when the wind is strong enough to rapidly push embers away from the point where they are being burned and deposit them in an area where they could ignite unintentional fires that might be difficult to control, or when smoke may move in a direction that is a danger to traffic or significant nuisance to neighbors.
In general, you might plan on burning in the early part of the day or late in the afternoon/early evening when winds tend to be lightest (note here you have to balance the lower wind potential against the chance, especially in the morning, that a low level temperature inversion will trap large amounts of smoke near the surface), within a few days following a significant rainfall event, and certainly when there are no burning bans, fire weather watches, Red Flag warnings or Special Weather Statements in effect that indicate a poor day for outdoor fires.
You can check for several of these indicators at this site, provided by the NC Division of Forest Resources...
Also, please keep in mind that many municipalities prohibit burning leaves and other yeard debris if a collection service is available, and that open burning is subject to various other regulations that may or may not require a permit. You may want to check the following web sites for additional information...
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