Wind-blown embers igniting dry vegetation and threatening homes sounds like a wildfire. Yet, this summer that source of embers may well be your own patio fire pit or backyard campfire. Recently, Summit County, Colorado, amended their fire code to require permits for these types of backyard fires out of an abundance of caution to reduce wildfire threats and educate residents on safe fire management practices.
These free permits are good for a year and involve a brief visit by a local department fire inspector – practicing appropriate social distancing, of course – to review and explain the minimum requirements. These steps are positive fire safety behavior and can be successfully employed by others, wherever they may live.
According to the article in the Summit Daily newspaper, “backyard recreational fires must be:
- Kept under three feet in diameter and two feet high, and
- Confined to a permanent outdoor fire ring, a portable outdoor fireplace, or a commercially-designed chiminea.
- Residents are also required to install a screen to prevent embers from escaping, and
- have a garden hose, fire extinguisher, or five-gallon bucket of water nearby.
The fire pit’s location is important, with a part of the fire inspection visit suggesting other locations if the fire pit is under low hanging branches or the overhanging eaves of a house, or too near other structures.
Fires are prohibited during times of high fire danger ratings and on “red flag” days that bring high winds to dry landscapes.
It is important to remember that embers blowing from a backyard fire pose the same threat to your home as if they are from a wildfire. Start with these simple steps to reduce the ignition risk, like:
- Cleaning out gutters of seasonal debris,
- Clearing away leaves and needles in the 0-5 foot “immediate zone” around the house,
- Moving any flammable material away from wall exteriors, like mulch, flammable plants, firewood piles, and
- Removing anything flammable stored underneath decks or porches.
Most of all, safely enjoy your patio fire pit or backyard campfire and keep blowing embers that come from any source from threatening your home this summer. Make sure to check in with your local fire authority to see if backyard fires are allowed and if burn bans are in place due to weather.