Legality of oil drum fires

I have a garbage bag full of sensitive documents I need to destroy. I have access to a shredder but it would take hours to do it all. There are a few empty oil drums near the garbage dumpsters behind my apartment building. I’m curious if anyone knows if it’s legal to burn my paper there. I couldn’t find anything specific for Philadelphia or Pennsylvania.

I just shredded 80 lbs of confidential papers for $20 at a commercial shredder - you might want to consider doing something similar.

I suggest you contact your local fire department. I bet they can provide you with that information.

A fire in the city limits is usually not legal without a permit. Even if the fire department says it’s ok or you get a permit, you should probably ask the landlord and the barrel owner. I personally wouldn’t want a tenant lighting a fire near a dumpster.

I’ve always wanted to do this. Alas, the US is so much more regulated than most of Asia.

Around here different consumer retail outlets, usually banks, offer “shredding days” as a promo. “Avoid Identity Theft!!! Bring your secret documents to friendly First Bank of Someplace & we’ll help make you nice and safe & secure…”

They pay for a commercial record shred truck to come to their parking lot, and you just drive up, give the guy your stuuff & watch it disappear into the grinder. If you’re lucky the bank will have a smiling babe standing there handing out free pens or other branded promo goodies.

I fed 10 bankers boxes of records to them last time. Cost was zero, and nobody blinked at the quantity. And I got two free pens. Oh joy!

I can’t answer your question spectifically, as I don’t know the laws in your area. However, I do have another suggestion:

Do you know anyone with a woodstove or fireplace? All of my sensitive doccuments go into my woodstove. This has the added advantage of containing any hot ash that could drift away from a drum fire and light other stuff up.

Has the economy really gotten so bad we have to emulate post-apocalyptic bums? :smiley:

Why not go down the street from the homeless shelter and see if you can borrow there drum. You know hang out and feed the fire and chat for a while.

This is a horrible suggestion. All that ash and partially burned paper going up the chimney is not good for it, and could very easily be a fire hazard. The ashes are much less dense than ash from wood, and will coat the inside of the chimney with carbon deposits much more quickly than burning wood would. Burning a lot of paper in a stove or fireplace is not a Good Idea.

ETA: It’s not too bad the way masterofnone does it, which sounds like just a few at a time. But burning an entire garbage bag full at one time is much different.

I regularly burn quite a bit of paper in my wood stove, and I check my chimney every spring. In the 6 years of doing this, I have not had to clean the chimney once, and the ash deposit on the plate at the bottom of my chimney has never been more than 1/4" thick. Burning pine is much worse for a chimney than burning paper.

It appears you need an open burning permit.

More info from a reliable source.

I’m on the other side of PA, and my municipality has their fire regulations plainly stated on their website specifically because they get so many calls about recreational and other fires. We’re allowed attended wood fires under a certain size and at a specified distance from any buildings that do not generate nuissance smoke. Basically, as long as you’re not risking burning the house down and the neighbors don’t complain, you’re okay. YMWV by municipality (assuming that you are not in Philly proper, for which an answer has been given).

Too bad you don’t live near me. I’d shred it for you, I would not even be tempted to look at the documents, and I’d have a good time doing it. I love to shred!

So it seems that I was right, but for the wrong reason (which never got me any credit in high school physics). Thanks for the link.

Wrapping paper and glossy paper are the only types I don’t put up the chimney. Obviously, the main problem with burning paper is that it can burn too quickly. Thin paper that is balled up will burn very quickly, sending lots of hot ash up the chimney. Glossy paper tends to burn incompletely and with tons of smoke, so I’m sure it gums up a chimney pretty quickly. Doccuments, OTOH, are usaully on heavy paper with relatively little ink. If you put a ream of heavy paper onto a good bed of coals, it will burn like a log.

Does your job have one of those commercial shredding bins like I have?
I’ve got a big trash-can-looking thing with a small hole open in it and a huge lock on the door behind my desk, and the Iron Mountain guys come and empty it once a week.
Maybe your boss’ll let you dump it in there, as an employee benefit?

When I was in the military (decades ago), I spent a week of temporary duty shredding documents. They showed me and another guy a hallway lined with hundreds of boxes and pointed to a sort of industrial-grade shredder.

Who wouldn’t want to look at military documents being shredded? I sure did. I was sorely disappointed – the signal-to-noise ratio was extreme. There might have been two or three juicy tidbits buried in forty boxes of paper, but I would never have known it.