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Monday, 09 May 2022 21:04

Fire Pit Safety in Massachusetts

Are you ready for fire pit season?

Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial start of summer in Massachusetts and people are preparing to gather outdoors again. The focal point at many gatherings will be a warm, inviting fire pit.

If you plan to add a fire pit, chiminea, or outdoor fireplace to your yard for the first time, make sure to check with your local fire department first. Some communities in Massachusetts allow for cooking fires only; other cities and towns may require a permit for permanent fire pits.

Whether you are new to fire pits or you have years of experience, take a few minutes to become familiar with Massachusetts fire pit regulations as well as fire safety considerations and placement recommendations.

Massachusetts Fire Pit Regulations1

There are no special permits required in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the use of temporary or portable outdoor fire pits, or cooking fires at single-family dwellings, however, a permit may be required for the installation of permanent fire pits. There are several requirements based on Department of Environmental Protection regulations (D.E.P.), the Massachusetts State Fire Laws & Codes (MGL Chapter 148 & 527 CMR), and the 2009 International Fire Code (IFC):

  1. If cooking or recreational fires are taking place on public property or property not owned by the permit applicant, the applicants must demonstrate that they have permission from the owners.
  2. The fire must be small and manageable, no greater than 3 feet in diameter. By definition, a fire larger than 3 feet in diameter and/or 2 feet in height is no longer considered a cooking or recreational fire (sec. 3.3.77 and sec. 3.3.215).
  3. All fires must be constantly attended to by a competent person (sec. 10, 11.5, 1).
  4. A garden hose connected to a water supply or other fire extinguishing equipment shall be readily available for use (sec. 10.11, 5.2).
  5. Fires shall not be conducted within 25 feet of a structure or combustible materials (sec.
  6. Conditions that could cause a fire to spread to within 25 feet of a structure shall be eliminated prior to ignition (sec,
  7. Outdoor fire pits/fireplaces, chimineas, cooking, and recreational fires are not incinerators. The burning of trash, rubbish, painted/stained wood, and construction debris is prohibited (sec. and 310 CMR 7.07 and 7.08).
  8. Do not cause a nuisance or health hazard to your neighbors. Never use wet or damp wood. This may create needless irritating smoke. Always use dry seasoned wood, charcoal, or specialist fuel (e.g., wood-burning briquettes). If the Wayland Fire Department receives complaints from neighbors that the smoke or smell is bothersome, we will investigate. If deemed necessary, you may be instructed to extinguish the fire (MGL 148 sec 5 & 527 CMR 1 sec. 10.11.2).
  9. Never use accelerants to light any fires.
  10. Residents who desire to install permanent fire pits/fireplaces [may] need to obtain permits from the building department.
  11. Check with your building department for regulations regarding the use of hibachi, grill, or other similar open flame devices used for cooking, heating, or any other purpose at non-single-family dwellings. Many municipalities do not allow open flames on any balcony, under any overhanging portion, or within 10 feet of any structure.


Where to Place Your Fire Pit

This video from Backyardscape offers a helpful video on the placement of your fire pit.


Fire Pit Safety Tips2

  • Place the fire pit in a safe spot away from your home, backyard deck, or low-hanging tree branches. Check with your municipality regarding the safest distance from your dwelling.
  • Set temporary fire pits and chimineas on a level surface that's clear of combustible, flammable materials.
  • Adult supervision around the fire pit is always required while the fire is burning and until it has cooled off.
  • Never leave the fire unattended.
  • Use water or sand to fully extinguish the fire.
  • Let the coals cool completely: "If it's too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave."
  • Dispose of cold coals in a metal container.


Beware of Windy Conditions & Air Quality Before Starting a Backyard Fire Pit

  • Do not burn outdoors when conditions are windy. This spring has been extraordinarily windy and dry, increasing fire danger throughout the state. When it's windy. do not start a fire before checking the local forecast -- sparks may fly to surrounding brush or structures causing a high fire risk to the surrounding area and community.
  • Buring wood adversely affects air quality. Poor air quality may result in a "no burn" announcement by MassDEP.

MassDEP prohibits open burning, which includes fire pits, on days when a fire may cause or contribute to air pollution.3  The department issues “no burn” announcements when

  • The Air Quality Index for Massachusetts and nearby areas of upwind states are “moderate” or higher (fine particle concentrations are at or above 12 micrograms/cubic meter) early in the morning, 
  • The weather forecast is for light winds, which allows smoke to linger over neighborhoods, and
  • Airflow into Massachusetts is coming from the southwest, which draws in polluted air from urban areas south and west of Massachusetts and can raise pollution levels here. In these conditions, smoke from open burning will add pollution to air that is already polluted, making a bad situation worse. Adults with respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma) and heart problems and children can be especially affected by air pollution. MassDEP may prohibit open burning in specific fire districts or statewide, depending on the conditions on a particular day."3

MassAir Online provides air quality and wind forecasts as well as real-time pollution levels. Below are examples of a recent forecast.

Search the MassAir Online map to find out about air quality conditions in your area.


Enjoy a Safe Fire Pit Season

Ensure that your backyard fire pit experience is safe for everyone by following the regulations and basic fire pit safety practices.


Sources:, Randolph MA Fire Department, Wayland Fire Department, Wikipedia, Travelers Insurance

1. Randolph MA Fire Department  and Wayland MA Fire Department   

2. Travelers Insurance



Read 1665 times Last modified on Friday, 08 July 2022 20:05

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