One of the best ways to spend a chilly evening is relaxing in front of a glowing fire, soaking up the warmth, and letting your mind unwind after dealing with the stresses of day to day life. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to enjoy the luxury of having a fire pit in their backyard.
With the frequency of wildfires that have resulted in burn bans in places all over the country, it can be hard to know what your options are. If you have asked “can I have a fire pit in my backyard?” and haven’t found a solid answer, you are in the right place. We are here to take a look at fire pit laws in different areas so you can figure out what options are available for your outdoor space.
Can I Have a Fire Pit in My Backyard?
Whether you live in a city or you live in a rural area that tends to stay pretty dry, you may be having a hard time finding a solid answer as to whether or not a backyard fire pit is legal where you are. There are a lot of places that have very strict restrictions on fire pits and how they are allowed to be used.
Whether or not you will be able to have a fire pit at your home depends on a few different factors:
What the local ordinances outline as required safe distance fires must be from buildings, generally this distance is between 20 and 30 feet from any structures.
What is considered a recreational fire (size, location, etc.).
Rules and guidelines for open burning in your area and whether or not it is legal.
What types of fires necessitate having a permit from the proper authorities.
Many areas only restrict fire pit use when the air quality is low or there is a higher chance of a fire happening. Other places have strict ordinances and guidelines regardless of the weather or time of year.
In Chicago, for example, fire pits and outdoor fireplaces are allowed, but they have to have a lid of some sort and can only be used for firewood. If you live in Chicago and want to burn leaves, you will need to leave the city limits and go to an area with looser restrictions.
Fire Pit Laws
The laws regarding fire pits can vary greatly from county to county, city to city, and even neighborhood to neighborhood. The state of Georgia has several different laws depending on which county you are in. In Cobb County, you can have recreational fires between 10 am and 10:30 pm, except for on windy days. In Gwinnett County, they have strict guidelines that are followed between May 1st and September 30th, set in place by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.
What Counts As A Recreational Fire?
Generally, a recreational fire will be an outdoor fire for burning materials other than rubbish or trash, where the fuel is not contained by an incinerator, grill, or other cooking apparatus, that falls within a predetermined size. Most municipalities place a limit on the size of a recreational fire as 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet in height. The purpose of the fire can be anything from pleasure, to religious or ceremonial, cooking, or warmth.
The main points to remember with a recreational fire include:
You should use standard fire pit fuel, such as firewood, tinder, and kindling, and not garbage, building materials, or other waste.
It should be burned in the open, such as a fire pit, bonfire, or campfire, and not an enclosed space.
The specific purposes outlined for recreational fires are clear and do not include work-related uses.
What is Open Burning?
According to the Division of Environmental Quality, open burning is when any materials are burned and which air contaminants are released directly into the air rather than passing through a chimney or a stack. What items a town allows under their open burn policy does depend on where you are located. Some places are strict with what they allow, other places have more open restrictions.
In Houston, open burning is anything that is burned outside of an approved incinerator. If you do not have your bonfire, campfire, or other fire within a barbeque pit, outdoor fireplace, or barbeque grill, that is open burning. Per their city’s rules, open burning is only allowed if the Fire Marshal approves and issues a permit.
Does My Fire Pit Count As Open Burning?
In most cases, yes it does. That being said, many municipalities define open burning to not include burning in a fire pit that is off the ground or covered, as they are less likely to come in contact with other flammable materials by accident, and are less prone to wind-blown sparks and spreading. This is one of the most important reasons for you to check your township or city regulations regarding burning.
Will I Need A Permit For My Fire Pit?
Generally speaking, you will not need a permit for open burn fires in fire pits or campsite fires. Burn permits are usually reserved for industrial purposes like waste disposal or other industrial processing. The best advice is going to be to call your local fire department and double-check. Simply let them know the size and purpose of the fire, and they should have an easy answer for you.