Backyard Fire Pit Laws & Regulations

Most people appreciate a good campfire or dinner cooked over an open fire. It’s important to check local ordinances before starting a fire or installing a fire pit.

Perhaps you’re also curious as to whether or not a fire pit in your garden would be allowed. Is it acceptable to have a fire pit in the backyard?

Yes. Fire pits in private yards are allowed as long as their use complies with local ordinances. Camping sites allow for, or even encourage, the use of portable fire pits. You’ll be alright with a fire pit in the backyard as long as you follow some simple safety precautions.

Most individuals are unaware of any limitations that may apply in their area if they were to use a fire pit to build a fire in their garden or at camping. It’s important to note that recreational fire regulations vary by municipality, however, must adhere to national standards for public safety.

Fire restrictions and other legislation are enacted for the welfare of all residents. Using the information in this article, you can have confidence that your next recreational fire will be in full compliance with local, state, and federal regulations.

Can I Have a Fire Pit in My Backyard?

Whether you live in a wetter metropolitan area or a more arid rural community, you may be wondering if a backyard fire pit is allowed in your area. Many communities have tight regulations regarding the use of fire pits.

There are a number of variables at play that will determine if a fire pit is feasible for your property:

  • Ordinances vary from place to place, but 20-30 feet is a good rule of thumb for keeping flames safe from nearby buildings.
  • What kind of fire can you safely have while having fun? (size, location, etc.).
  • How and if open burning is permitted in your community.
  • Which kinds of fires require authorization from the relevant authorities?

The usage of fire pits is often only prohibited in some locations during times of poor air quality or significant fire danger. When it comes to other places, the weather never plays a role in enforcing the laws and regulations.

Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are permitted in Chicago, for instance, but only if they are covered and used exclusively for burning wood. If you’re a Chicago resident who wants to burn leaves, you’ll have to travel outside the city to do it.

Regardless of where you are, it is generally safest to choose a treatment that has been well tested and is certified as effective. These two links from Outland Living showcase fire pits that meet the criteria for legal use in most areas.

Common Backyard Fire Pits Laws and Regulations

It’s crucial to remember that most municipalities tolerate modest fires for recreational purposes. A recreational fire requires only a moderate amount of wood to be burned, and should not produce an excessive amount of smoke that could be a nuisance to nearby residents.

Regulations meant to prevent fires are not always based on consideration for others in the area. Most laws are there to protect you from doing things like lighting your house on fire or releasing toxic substances into the atmosphere.

Here are some general rules to follow when having a fire in your garden for fun:

  • Be sure to keep your fire well away from any flammable objects. According to the law, you can’t have a fire closer than 25 feet to your house, shed, cars, or decks.
  • If your backyard is wooded, you should check for any low-hanging branches that could smother your fire.
  • The impact of recreational fires on nearby residents is an important issue to consider. You must keep your fire at least 10 feet from the boundary of your property.
  • When someone in the area starts a fire, the risk increases exponentially if the weather is windy. It is prohibited to use a backyard fire pit if there is a wind gust of more than 15 miles per hour.
  • The maximum height and width for a fire pit are three feet. The risk of injury from fire increases if fires spread to higher floors.
  • An adult must be present at all times while a fire is burning. Therefore, if you are violating fire safety laws even though you are in your garage 25 feet away, you should stop immediately.
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What You Can and Can’t Burn

People sitting close to the fire, nearby humans and animals, and the wildlife in the region are all at risk from the smoke, chemicals, and harmful gases that are released. Sometimes, even burning things that don’t look dangerous might be bad for the city’s air quality or even against the law.

If you are unsure of what you can burn, it is best to check with your local county government for guidelines.

The following is a list of some of the most often burned substances that are either poisonous or produce excessive smoke:

  • Although it may seem like a good idea at the time, it’s never okay to burn critical material or personal records for the sake of security. We produce too much smoke from burning paper, and the chemicals used in its treatment are harmful to our health.
  • Cardboard–Cardboard burns with an unpleasant odour. It can also cause the fire to surge, which is dangerous for everyone nearby.
  • Particleboard — Common in low-priced furniture. When burned, the adhesives used to bind particleboard release harmful gases.
  • A fire pit should never be fed with wooden pallets. Methyl bromide, a chemical, is used to treat some pallets. When wooden pallets are burned, methyl bromide is emitted into the atmosphere.
  • The ink used to print advertisements, newsletters, magazines, and coloured gift wrapping paper can produce harmful vapours when burned.
  • Plastic—When burned, plastic produces poisonous compounds that are harmful to people’s health, especially youngsters.
  • It’s not a good idea to use a bonfire to get rid of poison ivy, oak, or sumac from your yard. Fumes are released into the air from plants like Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac due to the irritating oil they contain. Some people are extremely sensitive to these vapours, experiencing severe lung discomfort and allergic reactions.
  • You shouldn’t burn trash or anything else that could harm your community. Trash incineration generates large quantities of smoke and discharges harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. Burning garbage is against the law.
  • If the wood has been pressure treated or painted, do not burn it. Toxic smoke can be released when pressure-treated wood is burned. Wood that has been painted, especially if it contains lead, can also off-gas potentially dangerous chemicals.
  • Firewood should not be made from branches or foliage that is still green because of the high moisture content of these materials. Your yard and the yard of your neighbour will shortly become engulfed in smoke.

Toxic chemicals and smoke from negligent fire builders often settle on wildlife. Excessive smoke can be fatal to the little bird and drive the little mammals out of their homes.

The toxic gases permeate the atmosphere and eventually make their way into the water supply.

What You Can Burn

Generally speaking, only clean, dry, split wood is allowed to be used as firewood in any given county. What follows is a short list of types of wood that are suitable for use as firewood:

Oak

Oak is a great heat source since it burns slowly and steadily. Oak, one of the most common types of firewood, is convenient for campers and barbecue fans to find and use.

Hickory

Hickory firewood is more desirable since it burns hotter than oak, maple, and other common hardwoods. Hickory is a dense wood, thus it could be difficult to split. Hickory is great firewood since it does not retain moisture. Hickory’s most distinctive quality is the delicious flavour it imparts to meals when used as a grilling wood.

Ash

Firewood made from ash trees is highly recommended. When compared to other firewoods on the market today, it has the advantages of being easier to burn, retaining less moisture, and emitting less smoke. Because of these qualities, it is ideal for use in a backyard fire pit or campfire.

Cedar

On a cold winter night, nothing beats a fire made from cedar wood because of its high heating value. It’s deceptive because it doesn’t generate huge flames. Moreover, when burned, cedar releases a wonderful scent all its own.

Putting Out Your Fire

In the correct conditions, fuels like coal, embers, and wood can keep burning for days. Careful handling of charred remains is required.

Prematurely discarding charred materials from flames is a common cause of house fires. They are so hot that they can melt plastic trash bags and house siding. It’s also possible for them to occur if stray embers or sparks from a fire escape the pit. Grill grates designed for use in a fire pit are one option for keeping the flames contained. Using this method, you may also prepare meals over an open flame.

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After a major fire, you should let the ash, coal, and ember sit out for several days.

A strong breeze can rekindle a smouldering fire. Coals should be evenly dispersed and stirred before being doused with water, dirt, or sand to put out any leftover flames.

Putting the coals under dirt will have the opposite effect. To cool them down, you can just swirl them or toss them on the ground in alternating motions.

When you’re done enjoying the fire, douse it with water from a hose if you have access to one. When holding a bonfire, it’s important to have a bucket of water or a hose handy in case of emergencies.

There are a number of uses for wood ash once a fire has been extinguished. Don’t just toss it out the window.

Campfire Rules and Regulations 

Taking care around a campfire is even more important than around a backyard fire. A catastrophic wildfire could be started by one careless step.

Wildfires can have a variety of unfavourable effects, including:

  • Hazardous to human and animal health.
  • Can potentially cause rodent infestations in neighbouring areas
  • Capable of releasing massive amounts of climate-altering gases
  • Forest fires reduce the ability of trees to absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and they can spread to residential areas, threatening lives and property.
  • There will be long-term changes to the terrain.

Even if you’ve been building campfires for years, mishaps are always a possibility. Campfire mishaps can have life-altering consequences, therefore it’s important to always observe local fire safety regulations.

Make sure you follow these rules before lighting your campfire:

  • Check the local ordinances and park guidelines.
  • Find out the state of the fire (windy and dry conditions are prime for wildfires)
  • Verify that there is no local prohibition on burning.

Kinds of Campfires

Different campgrounds have different fire regulations. Some people think of a campfire as something tiny enough to light up their campground, while for others it conjures up images of a massive flaming pile of branches, twigs, and dry brush.

Fires of varying sizes and sorts are permitted at many campgrounds and parks. In a campground full of people, your typical bonfire might not be permitted.

  • Kids
  • RVs
  • Cars
  • Trees

Inquire at the information booth or track down a member of staff to learn about campfire restrictions and designated sites.

If there is a burn ban in force, it could indicate that burns of any kind, including campfires, are prohibited. In the event of a fire ban or other weather-related restrictions, visitors are encouraged to get in touch with the park’s administration upon arrival.

Making a Campfire

Look around the campsite and the area before lighting a fire. Keep your tent, sleeping bags, and other gear at least 15 feet away from the campfire. Also, clear the area around the stove and fireplace of any clutter.

The best places to get kindling and wood are at stores close to the campground or by foraging around it. It’s possible that bringing in firewood from a remote distance can introduce unwanted bugs, which would then spread out as the wood is burned.

Children and animals need constant supervision around open flames. Talk to kids about fire safety and what to do if an item of clothing they’re wearing catches fire ( stop, drop, and roll).

Never walk away from a fire pit, bonfire, or campfire without putting out any embers. Under the correct conditions, a wildfire could be started quickly by wind or errant particles. Don’t hesitate to dial 911 if your campfire gets out of hand. Also, if you need assistance reporting the fire, you can contact the nearest park ranger or campground staff member.

Burn Bans

Air quality and wildfire prevention are two reasons for burn bans. The use of wood stoves, fireplaces, and outdoor burning is prohibited indefinitely and temporarily.

Authorities may issue a burn ban if the weather is warm and dry, for reasons of both fire prevention and air quality. Bans on burning due to poor air quality are common in the cooler months. This burning restriction could last for a week or more.

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Soot is comprised of very small particles and is found in wood smoke. Young children, the elderly, and those with respiratory or cardiac conditions are especially vulnerable to the deadly effects of soot due to the complex mixture of other carcinogens it contains.

Static wood smoke builds up when the wind dies down. Fires are prohibited under these conditions to prevent the accumulation of toxic levels of smoke in the air. However, gas fire pit tables may be utilised during burn bans because they produce no smoke.

Burn Ban Stages

There are two phases to complying with state burn bans:

Stage 1 Burn Bans 

Stage 1 Burn Bans are set based on weather conditions or rising pollution levels.

Stage 1 Burn bans mean:

  • Wood burning fireplaces and stoves that have not been approved as safe to burn are prohibited.
  • Any use of fireplace inserts is prohibited during this time unless it is the primary heat source in the home.
  • Even if a certified device is being used or the fireplace is the only heat source, visible smoke cannot be produced. Wood stoves and fireplace inserts should both feature a certification mark clearly indicating whether or not they are safe to use with wood. It ought to state that it satisfies U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emission guidelines.
  • When a burn ban is in effect, it is illegal to start or maintain any outdoor fire, including those made from wood or charcoal for recreational purposes.

Stage 2 Burn Bans

Stage 2 Burn Bans are set by state law when fine particle pollution levels reach a certain point or when the weather creates conditions that wildfires can more easily spread in, then, the state will enforce the burn bans.

Stage 2 Burn Ban means:

  • No fires are permitted unless they are the only significant means of heating available.
  • Smoke emissions must be kept to a minimum even if the fire is used just for domestic heating.
  • Fireplaces, wood stoves, and fireplace inserts that burn wood are not allowed, regardless of whether or not they have been certified.
  • Fires, even those used for leisure and fueled by wood or charcoal, are not allowed in outdoors.

Burn Ban Fines and Penalties

Property Owners

Inspectors will impose fines on property owners who are caught burning while the prohibition is in effect. The fine for breaking the restriction might be anywhere from $500 to $15,000.

Manufacturers

Manufacturers will be punished per unit produced and exported if their wood-burning fireplaces fail to fulfil standards despite claims that they are certified and compliant with fire ban legislation.

When lighting fires for recreational purposes, it is important to keep in mind a number of safety precautions and follow them strictly. There are statutes that are enacted, and they vary from one jurisdiction to the next.

In Conclusion

By now, you should be familiar with the standard rules and regulations pertaining to fire pits used for leisure purposes. You should be aware of the current legislation in your jurisdiction.

Spending time with friends and family by the fire is always a good idea, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • In order to prevent damage to your home, deck, shed, vehicles, and trees, keep your fire pit at least 25 feet away from these combustible objects.
  • Ten feet is the minimum safe distance between the fire and your property line.
  • When people are irresponsible around fires or use poisonous materials to fuel them, they create a significant risk.
  • When fires aren’t being fed with clean, dry wood, they can be a nuisance to the neighbourhood’s air quality.
  • Take notice of fire bans and make sure your neighbourhood is not under one before lighting a fire.
  • If you want to keep your campsite safe from wildfires, you need to be ready to put out a fire at a moment’s notice.
  • When camping, make sure to observe any fire restrictions put in place by the campground.
  • Fires, especially, require constant monitoring and attention.

This page serves as a safety tip; nevertheless, if you have any questions about whether or not your fire complies with county regulations, you should check online or contact your local fire department during office hours.

Have a great time around your campfire or in your backyard fire ring, but always observe fire safety rules and local ordinances.

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