Roasting marshmallows over open fire

Roasting marshmallows over open fire

Fire Pits and Open Burning Safety

Follow these guidelines to keep your family safe

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The Enclosure Fire Safety Outdoor Open Burning Fires Within City Limits

Fire pits are gaining popularity. The warmth and joy that radiates from the open fire can make parties, intimate gatherings and simple marshmallow roasts sought-after, enjoyable activities. However, fire pits are wrought with dangers, and to ensure the safety of you, your family and your guests, you should address the following safety concerns.

Top Fire Pit Safety Tips

To ensure the safety of you, your family, and your guests, follow these fire pit safety tips from the Raleigh Fire Department.

The Enclosure

Fire pit enclosure

A fire pit enclosure can be as simple as a store-bought iron basin or as elaborate as a handmade stone pit. Whatever your choice of enclosure material, the rules for safety remain similar:

  • Place or build your fire pit in a flat, open area. Avoid areas with trees, especially those with low-hanging branches. Do not place a moveable fire pit on a slope.
  • In purchasing a fire pit, always buy the fire screen for additional protection. Also, if you are building a fire pit, purchase a screen that fits your enclosure.
  • When possible, place your pit on concrete, dirt or gravel. Avoid placing it on or around grass or leaves.
  • In constructing a pit, build a non-flammable base of concrete, dirt or gravel. This will decrease the chance of having materials outside the pit catch on fire. It will also increase the ambience of your fire pit.
  • If you are building a seating ring to surround the fire pit, ensure the seats are not flammable. Popular, aesthetically pleasing seating includes concrete, stucco and metal seats. In addition, ensure your immovable seats are positioned properly for enjoyment without danger: 4 feet is the optimal distance for fire safety.

Fire Safety

Family roasting marshmallows.

In general, the Raleigh Fire Department discourages open burning (learn more below). If you choose to have a fire pit, follow these safety protocols while using it:

  • Always have a fire extinguisher or a water hose nearby.
  • Make sure the fire pit or fire is at least 25 feet from any structure
  • Make sure the fire is constantly attended
  • Keep a first aid kit nearby for any accidental burns.
  • Put out the fire completely before leaving the pit unattended or before finishing the evening. Make sure you’ve completely extinguished the embers.
  • Do not light a fire in windy conditions. One stray spark can cause a large fire.
  • If a fire warning is implemented in your area, do not burn. The dry conditions in the area could influence rampant forest or brush fires based on a single ember or spark.
  • Never allow a child to start a fire or to play near the fire. Children should always be closely supervised around a fire pit.
  • Always use dry wood and kindling to light your fire. Never use accelerants, garbage or garden clippings to light a fire. Also, never throw any materials besides seasoned woods onto your fire.
  • Be aware that fire code officials can order certain fires to be extinguished, such as those that create objectionable odors or smoke or when local conditions make these fires hazardous.

Outdoor Open Burning Fires Within City Limits

It is illegal to burn trash or debris in the City of Raleigh. The only types of fires that are permitted are fires used for heating or cooking. These fires are not allowed to exceed 3 feet in height or 2 feet in diameter.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources also prohibits the burning of leaves and yard debris where curbside collection is available. The City of Raleigh offers curbside collection of yard waste.

City Ordinance addresses open burning. According to Sec. 7-2005 on pre-collection practices, removal of rubbish, weeds and other refuse:

"No person shall burn leaves, shrubs, tree limbs, and the like on the streets or sidewalks or on private property except upon special permission from the Fire Code Official."

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