The do's and don'ts of outdoor recreational fires

Posted at: 05/16/2013 5:47 PM
By: Joangel Concepcion

This the season when a lot of folks like to relax with a backyard fire pit, but believe it or not, fire officials say some of you could be breaking the law.

Burning rubbish or any materials in your backyard is considered illegal through out New York State, unless you have a permit. But outdoor fires are allowed if you follow certain rules.

Bonfires, for example, are not permitted, in New York. News10NBC found out some local fire marshals will allow it, as a courtesy, if it is in a fire pit, like the ones you can buy at your local hardware store.
This is the time of year where fire departments get a lot of calls about outdoor fires. Usually, it's a neighbor calling in to complain about the smoke being a nuisance. News10NBC learned if firefighters are called out to address the issue, you better make sure you're following these rules.

For many, it's a relaxing touch to any summer night. But for fire officials, the flames can be considered a hazard.

Christopher Roth, Town of Brighton Fire Marshal, said, “A bon fire is generally characterized as just putting logs on the ground and lighting them and having a fire. That activity is not permitted in the state without a permit.”

Brighton Fire Marshal Christopher Roth says the fire has to be in a pit. If all of the guidelines are followed, most local fire departments will allow outdoor fires as a "privilege.”

Most departments require any fire to be at least 25 feet away from any structure. The pit can't be more than two feet high and three feet wide  Also, the fire has to be supervised by an adult. You can't use any kind of wood. It has to be seasoned fire wood. A source of water must be on hand at all times in case of an emergency and when the party is over it has to be completely extinguished. Finally, the fire can't be a "nuisance."

Roth said, “If we receive such a complaint, we respond, we investigate and we may ask to extinguish the fire because of that nuisance condition. As long as the smoke doesn't emanate to a neighbor or create a situation within the neighborhood that becomes a complaint.”

Roth says when people are having a good time, it's sometimes hard to remember the people next door. It's something he says will keep communities safe and at peace.

Roth said, “It's good fire safety practice to make sure you can enjoy your property, enjoy a fire, have fun with your family but its also to make sure your property is protected as well as your neighbors.”

Local fire officials say they don't really have issues with people abusing the privilege to burn bonfires. But if it becomes a repetitive nuisance, you can be cited and eventually fined.

If people have an outdoor fire to report, they should call 911. But if you have any further questions about outdoor fire requirements in your area, you are urged to call your local fire department.