Raise your hand if you want answers to the following questions:
- Am I allowed to have a fire in my backyard?
- Are there any restrictions on what type of fires I am allowed to have?
- Do I need a permit to build an outdoor fireplace or chimney on my property — and if so, how can I get that permit?
If your hand is raised, then you’re at the right place. In this post, we will answer those questions and provide you with all the information you need to know to have a fire in your backyard without risking any legal trouble whatsoever.
Laws About Having a Fire In Your Backyard
Different areas have different laws about starting a fire in your backyard. So the first thing you need to do is learn about the regulations in your area.
Learn the Backyard Fire Regulations In Your Area
Population density plays the biggest role in determining whether backyard burning is legal. Why’s that? Well, it’s one thing to start a fire in an open field around which there aren’t any people. It’s an entirely different story if the fire spreads in an area crammed with people. The results of such a fire, as you can imagine, will be a whole lot worse.
That’s why more populated areas have more strict fire regulations. So you need to call your city council to find out what you can and cannot do before starting a fire in your backyard.
Otherwise, depending on where you live, you can get into some serious legal trouble.
Find Out Whether You Need a Permit to Build An Outdoor Fireplace Or Chimney
Once again, whether you need a permit to build an outdoor fireplace or chimney also depends on where you live and the restrictions in your area. For example, in many states such as California or Colorado, you will need a permit if there is no natural gas connection at your house. Other states have different rules. So you will have to check in with your local authorities.
Legal matters aside, there’s also concern about the safety of having a fire in backyards — which brings us to our next point.
Consider the Factors that Determine Whether You Should Have a Fire In Your Backyard
The laws exist for a reason. When we’re talking about fire, safety must always be a concern. Otherwise, you can end up facing a lot of damage for avoiding tasks that require so little effort. That’s why when you’re considering starting a fire in your backyard, you must look at all factors that determine whether the fire will be safe — including the following:
- Weather Forecast: Are there any chances of rain or wind? Are the weather conditions right to safely burn your trash and yard waste without risk of a fire spreading quickly towards your house, other homes in the area, or nearby trees? You can get the answers to those questions by turning on your T.V and watching the weather forecast.
- Wind Direction and Speed: Are there any strong winds that can spread the fire fast? Are you in a windy area, which means you have to be extra careful about your plans for burning yard waste or trash? You need to answer these questions to ensure the conditions are safe.
- AQI: AQI stands for Air Quality Index. It’s a measure that helps determine a lot of things, one of which is whether the air is right for starting a fire. AQI ranges from 0 to 500. The higher it is, the more risk there is of a fire spreading.
- Your Environment: The environment you live in matters. For instance, let’s say your residence is situated near a road. In such a scenario, if your fire makes too much smoke, it may affect the visibility on the road. As you can imagine, that could cause a lot of damage.
- The Material You’re Going to Burn: Are you planning to burn garbage or yard waste? Are they flammable? If yes, then there’s a significant chance that your fire will spread. So you need to find a suitable material for burning.
How to Start a Fire In Your Backyard Safely
Besides what we just discussed, here are three other tips that will help ensure your fire starts and ends safely.
1. Keep a Fire Extinguisher Nearby
You should always keep a fire extinguisher and as much water as possible nearby in case your plan backfires. Now here’s an important thing to remember when starting a fireside: don’t dump water on top of burning embers! Instead, douse only those parts that need extinguishing. Otherwise, your supply will run out pretty quickly.
2. Start the Fire at Least 25 Feet Away From Your House
This is essential for two reasons. First, it’s an established safety rule that everyone must follow when starting a fire in their backyard. Second, even if there is no wind or rain or other factors that would make it unsafe to have the fire nearby, smoke can waft towards your house and pose significant damage. So keep this distance between your home and where you light up the matchstick!
3. Always Have an Adult Present for Supervision
The fire must be supervised by an adult the entire time it is burning. Meaning that even if the adult is say 25 feet away working on a project in the garage or just hanging out at home, that’s still dangerous. The adult needs to keep an eye on the fire at all times.
The Restrictions On What Type Of Fire You Can Start
Here’s the thing: You can’t start a fire by burning whatever you like. Certain materials shouldn’t be used for starting a fire. For instance, smoke, chemical, and most gases are a strict no-no. Furthermore, there are a lot of other materials that shouldn’t be burnt because they are either toxic or they emit too much smoke to burn.
Here’s a list of some of the most commonly used materials for starting a fire that you should avoid using:
- Paper: While it may be tempting to burn documents that you were going to throw out anyway, this is not advised. Burning paper creates a lot of unnecessary smoke and releases hazardous pollutants into the air.
- Wooden Pallets: A fire pit should not be fueled with wooden pallets. That’s because some pallets are treated with a dangerous chemical known as methyl bromide. When they burn, methyl bromide is released into the air.
- Magazines: Magazines, ads, and newspapers that are written with ink are dangerous for two reasons. First, they are made with paper. Second, when ink is burned, it releases toxic fumes into the air.
- Plastic: If you didn’t know already, burning plastic emits chemicals that are harmful to almost all living organisms including humans.
- Poisonous Plants: Getting rid of poisonous plants, such as Poison Ivy, Oak, or Sumac, using a bonfire is hazardous. The irritant oil in those plants produces vapors that can irritate the throat and lungs. For some individuals, these fumes create significant lung irritation and allergic responses.
- Garbage: Garbage is one of the worst things to burn in your community. It emits chemicals into the atmosphere and produces a lot of smoke. That’s why the law in most areas prohibits burning trash.
- Leafy Branches: If you live in an area where wood is plentiful, collecting fallen branches to start a bonfire may be tempting. However, you shouldn’t do so because they produce a lot of smoke, which will rapidly fill up your yard and your neighbor’s as well.
On top of being harmful to your health, wildlife, and the environment, burning those materials is also restricted in some areas. If your residence falls into one of those areas, then you can expect to pay a hefty fine if caught.
To find out if you’re allowed to have a fire in your backyard, you need to check in with the local laws of your county. In case they don’t provide a clear answer, read your state laws or call your city council for help.
Besides legal matters, there’s also a concern for safety. But as we’ve discussed thoroughly in this post, as long as you’re careful in taking the precautionary steps for starting a fire safely, you will have nothing to worry about.