Outdoor Fires: What are the Rules?
Properly maintained fires add warmth and ambiance to outdoor gatherings.
It's not a campout without a fire, says Ron Bodnar, longtime scoutmaster of Troop 215 in northwest Hillsborough County. "The kids love 'em," he says. Even on a trip to the woods at the end of June, "they had to have a fire."
But, like the Bodnar's young charges, make sure you know the rules before striking a match.
Bonfires of any type, whether for ceremonies, religious events, or social gatherings of families and friends, require an open fire permit issued by the Hillsborough County Fire Marshal. Permits require the time, date, and location of the requested fire, the type of fuel used, and the name of a person overseeing the fire. The permit form includes a list of regulations.
Open burning for agricultural purposes is regulated by the Florida Forest Service. Call (863) 940-6701 for information. Clearing vegetation for development requires permission from Hillsborough County's Environmental Protection Commission. Contact the commission's Air Management Division to learn more.
How about a fire pit in your backyard?
- Small fires contained in nonflammable containers, such as fire pits, do not need permits. Follow these safety precautions:
- The fire should be a manageable size and attended at all times by a competent person.
- Use only clean-burning logs and clean wood that is not treated, painted, stained, or glued.
- Maintain a minimum 25-foot setback from any structure, and ensure there is no material within that radius that could allow the fire to spread.
- Keep a garden hose or other fire extinguishing equipment close by.
- Do not put a fire pit directly on a wooden deck or grass, or beneath eaves or low-hanging tree branches. Place the fire pit on a nonflammable surface, such as concrete or patio blocks.
- Make sure a fire is completely extinguished before leaving an area. As much as possible, return the vicinity to its previous appearance.
- Check to see if your neighborhood or condominium association has rules pertaining to fire pits or outdoor grills.
Scoutmaster Bodnar suggests building fires where others have lit them, when possible. Otherwise, with many people lighting fires in different places, it creates a mess.
Never burn residential yard clippings, trash, or combustible materials in an outdoor fire. Recycle appropriate materials. Place yard waste where your local hauler can remove it, or take it to Hillsborough County's Yard & Wood Waste Processing Facility at 350 Falkenburg Road.
For more information, call Hillsborough County Fire Rescue's non-emergency telephone number: (813) 681-9927. Fire Rescue provides multiple educational services, from a summer youth fire academy to distribution of free smoke alarms.