Is a Fire Pit Considered an Open Fire?

The frequent wildfires have prompted burn bans in places all across the country, making one wonder if a fire pit is considered an open fire. Is it against the law to light a fire pit in your backyard? What are the rules and regulations that you need to follow when lighting fire pits? We have shared helpful information about lighting a fire pit that you can refer to.

Is a fire pit considered an open fire? A fire pit is considered an open fire in most cases. On the other hand, you should take note that some municipalities may define open burning differently. This is because while fire pits directly expel smoke into the air, many are off the ground and will unlikely get in contact with combustible materials that could start a larger fire. Before starting a fire pit in your backyard, make sure to check your town or city regulations with regard to burning.

What is considered an open burning? Do you need a permit for a fire pit? Where should you put a fire pit in your house? These are some of the questions that we will discuss in this article. Many people enjoy spending a cold evening in front of a glowing fire. But before lighting a fire pit in your backyard, check out your city regulations to make sure that you are not breaking any law.

Is a fire pit considered an open fire
Image by Brian Stephens from Pixabay

Do You Need a Permit for a Fire Pit?

In general, you do not need to have a permit to light fire pits in your backyard. The burn permits are only required for industrial purposes such as waste disposal. To make sure, it is recommended that you call your local fire department and double-check the rules and regulations. Discuss with them the size and purpose of the fire pit that you are planning to have.

What Types of Open Burn Fires Need a Permit?

Non-recreational purposes like waste disposal or wood waste from a demolition activity require a burn permit. If you are planning to have any kind of open fire especially in a residential area, make sure that you check with your local fire department.

Can You Have a Fire Pit in Your Backyard?

Whether you can or cannot use a fire pit in your backyard will have to depend on the rules of the city that you live. Some areas restrict the use of a fire pit when air quality is low or there is a high chance that a fire might occur. On the other hand, some places have strict ordinances and guidelines with regards to the weather or time of year. You first need to determine what is considered to be an open fire in your area. You can also read this article titled, is it better to burn paper or throw it away? Check out the article for an in-depth discussion about the topic.

Where in Your Property Should You Put a Fire Pit?

Usually, fire pits are placed between 20 to 30 feet away from your house, but make sure to check with your local law for the required fire pit distance from structures. If you want to install a fixed fire pit structure on your property, you can hire the services of a licensed contractor. They can also advise you about the local laws when it comes to fire pit safety and compliance. We have also shared this article that discusses if you can burn pellets in a fire pit. Check out the article for more information about the topic.

What is Considered a Recreational Fire?

Typically, a recreational fire is an outdoor fire for burning materials that is not trash, and the fuel is not contained by a grill, incinerator, or other cooking appliance. Some municipalities limit the size of a recreational fire to be 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet in height. The purpose of a recreational fire can be anything from pleasure, cooking, warmth, or religious or ceremonial.

What is Considered an Open Burning?

Open burning is when any materials are burned and air contaminants are directly released into the air rather than passing through a chimney or a stack. The items that are allowed under the open burn policy depend on the area where you are located. Some places have a strict law with regards to what they allow for open burning, while other places have more open restrictions.

Rules and Regulations for Backyard Fire Pit

Towns and cities usually allow small recreational fires in their neighborhoods. Building a recreational fire also means that you are burning a reasonable amount of wood which can produce smoke that can affect your neighbors. Take note that not all fire safety regulations are based on being a respectful neighbor, but most laws are made so that you can avoid setting your home on fire or releasing dangerous chemicals into the air.

Below are some of the standard fire safety regulations on backyard recreational fires:

  • The fire should be at a safe distance from any combustible surfaces. Make sure that the fire is between 20 to 30 feet from your house, shed, or other structures.
  • Light your fire pit at least 10 feet from the property line to avoid smoke from entering your neighbor’s property.
  • Make sure that no tree branches are hanging over the fire.
  • Take note of the wind conditions because it poses a significant threat to the safety of your neighborhood when you have a fire going. You are not allowed to light a backyard fire pit when the wind conditions are over 15 miles per hour.
  • All types of open fires should be supervised by an adult while they are burning. Do not leave fire pits unattended.
  • The fire should not be taller than three feet high and three feet wide. This is because towering fires can be a fire safety threat.

✅ Video – Fire Pit Safety Tips

WPRI shared the video below on YouTube. It discusses fire pit safety tips. In the video, consumer reporter Susan Hogan provides some tips and information on how to have a safe backyard fire pit. Check out the video below for more information.

Residential Fire Pits Regulations

Location guidelines, burn material restrictions, and supervision regulations should be considered when you are lighting a residential fire pit. Many recreational fire regulations are made in consideration to your neighbors, but others exist to make sure that about your safety as well as the safety of those around you. Every town has its laws and regulations to be followed. Below are the three common fire pit laws and regulations that you need to know. We have also shared this article titled, can you use bamboo as firewood? Check out the article to learn the pros and cons of using bamboo for firewood.

Location Guidelines

If you want to have a portable fire pit or install a permanent structure in your backyard, make sure to carefully consider where you place it. You need to place portable fire pits on fire-resistant surfaces such as a brick patio. Moreover, do not place the fire pit directly into the grass because flying embers can be a fire risk. The portable and permanent fire pits are required to be placed at least 10 feet away from the property line. Place the pit in an area in your property that is free from low-hanging branches and other landscaping elements that are potentially flammable. Do not forget to double-check the rules and regulations with local fire officials.

Burn Materials Restriction

Another thing that you need to consider is the burn material restriction. Take note that the burning of certain materials can result in dangerous and bad-smelling gases. Chemicals, smoke, and poisonous gases are offensive and are dangerous to those who are sitting near the fire, people in the vicinity, and the wildlife in the area as well. Materials that are commonly used for kindling like magazines and paper can result in excessive smoke and can also release toxins from the adhesive or ink. Furthermore, burning even green leafy branches should be avoided because it can result in serious lung irritation. Make sure that you use clean, dry, and split firewood such as oak, cedar, and ash for your fire pit.

Supervision Regulations

Do not leave the fire unattended because shifting winds can cause large fires. Local ordinances usually prohibit a backyard fire during high wind conditions. Any fire pits should be supervised the whole time the fire is burning. You also need to take care of the leftover embers from the fire. The embers can retain enough heat and a strong gust of wind can start the fire back again. Once you are done with your backyard fire, spread out the coals and stir them with sand or dirt so that they are extinguished completely. Do not bury the hot coals because they will retain the heat. Instead, stir the coals frequently and sprinkle sand or soil until they are no longer hot. Another option that you can do is to place the embers in a metal container and pour water over them.

Backyard Fire Pit Safety Tips

Any kind of fire should be supervised. Below are some dire safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association that you need to take note of when planning a fire pit in your backyard.

  • Before lighting a fire, make sure to check the wind direction.
  • Do not use flammable fluids such as gasoline to light the fire.
  • Avoid wearing flammable clothing or any loose-fitting clothing when tending the fire.
  • Children and pets should be kept at least 3 feet away from the fire.
  • Do not use softwoods such as pine or cedar because they can ignite and throw sparks.
  • Make sure to keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of water nearby.


In this article, we have discussed if a fire pit is considered an open fire. We have also shared some safety tips that you need to consider when lighting a fire pit. Take note that laws vary county by county so make sure that you stay up to date on the policy in your area. Having a fire pit is considered a form of relaxation by many. You can always enjoy a fire pit in your backyard but make sure that you follow rules and regulations Thank you for reading!

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