If you are planning a backyard gathering or camping trip, you may be wondering is a propane fire pit is considered an open fire? The answer is not straightforward, as it depends on the specific regulations in your area and the definition of an open fire. However, there are some general guidelines to consider.
In some cases, campfire prohibitions still allow the use of CSA-rated or ULC-rated cooking stoves that use gas, propane, or briquettes, if the height of the flame is less than 15cm tall. However, in extreme fire conditions, these may also be prohibited.
Check with your local fire department or park ranger to determine the specific regulations in your area.
What Is a Propane Fire Pit?
A propane fire pit is a type of outdoor heating appliance that uses propane gas as its fuel source. It is a popular alternative to traditional wood-burning fire pits because it is cleaner, easier to use, and more convenient. Propane fire pits are available in a variety of styles and sizes, and they can be used in many different outdoor settings, including backyards, patios, and campsites.
Propane fire pits consist of a base, burner, and fuel source. The base is typically made of metal or stone and can be designed to look like a traditional fire pit or a modern piece of outdoor furniture. The burner is the part of the fire pit that produces the flame and is usually made of stainless steel or brass. The fuel source is a propane tank, connected to the burner via a hose.
Propane fire pits are easy to use and require minimal maintenance. To start the fire, turn on the propane tank and ignite the burner with a lighter or match. Many propane fire pits come with a control knob that allows you to adjust the flame height and intensity. When you’ve finished using the fire pit, you can turn off the propane tank, to turn off the flames.
There is no need to clean up ashes or debris, as there is with a wood-burning fire pit. Propane fire pits are a safe and convenient way to enjoy the warmth and ambiance of an outdoor fire without the hassle and mess of a traditional wood-burning fire pit.
Open Fires and Open Burning
Open burning refers to any fire that does not have a chimney or stack in an outdoor area. The definition of open burning varies from one city, county, or state to another.
It includes burning any materials that release contaminants into the air directly, rather than passing the vapors through a chimney or a stack. This means that propane fire pits are considered open fires.
In many areas, the operation of a propane fire pit is legally defined as open burning. When a fire is present in an open outdoor area, regardless of the source of fuel used to feed the fire, it’s considered open burning.
Open burning in areas calling for a ban on all open burning can result in a citation and a fine from local law enforcement. It’s important to check with your city, county, or state for clarification of the regulations that apply to your area.
Some municipalities may allow the use of recreational burning even if it is considered an open burn.
Regulations and Laws Relating to Open Fires
When it comes to fire pits, regulations and laws relating to open fires can vary significantly from one location to another. In some municipalities, fire pits may be considered open burning and may require a permit or be prohibited under a fire ban.
In others, fire pits may be allowed as long as they meet certain criteria. Double-check with your local authority before using any sort of outdoor fire appliance to make sure that the rules have not changed.
Burn bans are regulations that prohibit outdoor burning with combustible materials like firewood. Local agencies may put air quality burn bans into effect to keep smoke out of the air, or they might prohibit open flames in an attempt to prevent forest fires.
The exact rules for any given burn ban depend on the agency issuing the ban as well as the specifics of that particular ban.
If you can find a fire pit that fits within the guidelines for the fire ban that is in effect in your area, then yes, you are allowed to use it. But if the product falls outside those guidelines, you cannot use it.
When choosing a fire pit to use during a fire ban, there are several important features to look for. First, make sure the fire pit is CSA-approved and has markings indicating it meets National Electrical Code (NEC) standards.
Second, ensure the fire pit produces flames less than 15 cm tall or allows you to adjust the flame height below that maximum.
According to the International Fire Code (IFC), open burning is defined as the burning of materials wherein products of combustion are emitted directly into the air without passing through a stack or chimney from an enclosed chamber.
In Colorado, open burning that requires a burn permit includes bonfires, agricultural burning, and fires larger than 3 feet wide and 2 feet high.
Outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, BBQ grills, and chimineas used for recreational burning do not require a burn permit.
Burning trash or rubbish is strictly illegal. Backyard recreational fires may only burn sticks, branches, or firewood. Sawn lumber (2x4s, etc.), plastic, furniture, chemicals, tires, furniture, appliances, etc. are not allowed to be burned.
In Colorado, you do not need a permit for a portable fire pit fueled by a propane tank. However, if you are planning a natural gas-fired custom installation pit, you need a permit from your local building official because of the installation of a natural gas pipe.
In Massachusetts, fire pits are subject to the open burning regulation set by the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). Unless used for cooking, fire pits are not allowed to burn in Massachusetts and are subject to the same regulations as open burning.
If you do use a propane fire pit for cooking, it must be kept to a reasonable size, located away from combustible materials, contained in a non-flammable enclosure, and tended by someone who is 18 years of age or older.
It is important to note that weather and air quality can change rapidly, especially in the spring, and fire departments can rescind permits when that happens. Open burning must be done between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. from January 15 to May 1 and must be at least 75 feet from all dwellings, as close as possible to the source of material being burned, and when air quality is acceptable for burning.
To find out if your community has specific requirements, contact your local fire department.
Washington State Parks
If you are planning a trip to a Washington state park and wondering if you can use a propane fire pit, you can during a burn ban up to level 3.
Washington State Parks has four levels of burn bans, each with its own set of restrictions. In Level 1, low fire risk, fires are allowed in all designated fire pits. In Level 2, medium fire risk, wood fires are restricted to fire pits within designated areas, while gas and propane fires are allowed.
In Level 3, high fire risk, gas/propane self-contained camping stoves and gas/propane fire pits are allowed, but no charcoal or wood fires are allowed.
During a level 4 burn ban, there is an extreme fire risk, no open flames of any type are allowed, and smoking is prohibited. Trails and undeveloped areas may be closed to entry. Internal RV stoves are allowed, but no fires are permitted at any time of year.
It’s important to note that propane fire pits are allowed in Level 3 burn bans, but not in Level 4. It’s always a good idea to check the park’s individual web page for the most up-to-date information on burn bans and fire restrictions.