Dear PoP – Is it Legal to Have a Fire Pit in Your Backyard?

Photo by PoPville flickr user ekelly80

“Dear PoP,

Do you know the laws on building a backyard fire pit in Petworth or where they can be found?”

Hmm, I’m not sure actually, I know folks who have fire pits in Brookland and on the Hill so I just assumed it was legal. Anyone know the laws on a backyard fire pit?

16 Comment

  • Criminy, it’s practically legal for kids to run around with guns shooting each other, and you’re worried about backyard enjoyment?

    When my BBQ got the fire department to come by because of the smoke, the chief responder said “smells good” after he told dispatch “the fire is calm.” Just make sure it’s for a bbq and it’s apparently legal.

  • It may be one of those unenforced regulations. Like BBQ grills: I’m pretty sure that in DC they’re not really legal anyplace other than on the ground, but it’s not hard to find them on elevated decks, balconies and rooftops.

  • Yeah, I saw a house on the Hill with a fire pit– I think it was actually featured on here as a “Good Deal or Not”– and I’m sure it was legal.

  • I have wondered about this as well. I have seen the portable fire pits but I wonder if something more substantial would be okay… like this:

  • from what i have researched, it has to be something like 6′ away from any wall and if you have trees etc, it cant be directly under those, it cant be “in the ground” either and you arent allowed anything that can drift ash. so basically, some sort of air tank-fueled contraption

  • If you can have a firepit you can’t have a stack of wood to feed the fire. Apparently wood piles attract rats.

    • Certainly doesn’t stop the 20 or so neighbors in my immediate vicinity from having wood piles and I’ve yet to see a rat infestation.

  • My neighbors have one of those portable pits. I hate to be that guy who complains, but the smoke is not channeled up high like in a fireplace, so it tends to swirl at ground level and get in my house. It set off my basement smoke alarms one time. Annoying.

    Unless you have a big yard, I don’t recommend a fire pit in the city.

    • agreed. there was a guy who would burn all kinds of crap in his firepit near me. On a nice day when everyone has their windows open the smoke gets in everyones houses.

    • There’s a rental house next door to mine that has some kind of wood stove contraption out back. It seems like every year I have to tell a new crop of residents to quit burning cardboard in the thing, which fills my house with smoke.

      I’ve often wondered about the legality.

  • Agreed as well. The neighbor’s fire pit makes my bedroom, clothes, sheets, etc. smell like I’m camping. The smoke seems to seek out the bedroom window instead of going up.

  • Better to ask forgiveness than permission …

  • i have to admit that I have a firepit. I try to be conscious of the smoke and how it affects my neighbors. When I’m cooking, I try to ask people to let me know if the smoke bothers them but sometimes the wind takes the smoke in unpredictable directions. FYI – the best time to have an open fire is during colder weather when people have their windows closed.

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