WF Fire Corner: Hosting backyward fires and barbecues safely – InForum

If April showers bring May flowers, I am not sure what April snow brings, at least we can look forward to warmer weather.

When warm weather finally arrives, there will start to be allot of outside activity. Yard cleanup, tree pruning, flower bed preparation are just a few things that we all will be starting. Warmer days and longer nights will lead to get-togethers with family and friends for barbeques and recreational fires.

The reason I mention “recreational fires” is that the fire department looks at every fire differently.

Yes, it seems we are complicating things, but in all honesty, we want to keep all of you safe. Since this article is dealing with fire safety, it is appropriate to talk about a potentially dangerous inevitability in the summer, outside fires! “Recreational Fires” are defined as any outside fire that is contained in an approved fire pit.

What is approved you ask? The majority of fire pits sold in your local home improvement stores are legal to use. Although recreational fires are allowed within the city limits of West Fargo, keep in mind we also have regulations governing their use.

Yes, governing! Sounds pretty official does not it. That is because anytime we deal with fire, we take it very seriously. Simply said, small fire in your yard, no matter how small or insignificant can quickly get out of hand in a matter of minutes. A simple gust of wind can take embers to a dry pile of leaves or into a stack of dry wood that can sit and smolder for hours before actually starting a fire. This is part of why we regulate the use of burn pits.

Please keep all fires a minimum of 25 feet away from buildings, decks or combustibles.

Burn only dry branches, twigs or wood products. Please do not burn leaves, grass or garbage. This tends to produce a large amount of smoke and irritate your neighbors. I hate to say it, but we rarely if ever have a completely still day with absolutely no wind/breeze. Take the direction of the wind and the longevity of your fire into account so you think about where your smoke will travel. If a storm or high winds are in the forecast for a short time, wait for another day to have your fire.

I cannot stress this enough, please never discard charcoal, fire pit embers (however cold they may seem) into a plastic garbage can or combustible container. Keep all the by-products of your fire out of the garage and keep them at least 25 feet from any building. We have had multiple building fires from discarded fire or grilling products that re-ignite and cause serious damage to property.

If you do decide to have a recreational fire, please always have a method of putting the fire out available. This could be a garden hose, fire extinguisher, even a bucket of water, just so you have something to stop the fire if something goes awry.

Always put water on a recreational fire and make sure that it is out completely once you are done.

Do not leave a fire unattended for any amount of time.

Any large fires (outside an approved burn pit) require a permit from the fire department. Applications for these larger fires and guidelines for burn pits can all be found on our web page at

Grilling with charcoal also need to be mentioned. Letting charcoal burn out is fine but keep in mind that ashes fall from the bottom and can be blown to other places as well. Keep all grills (gas or charcoal) at least 3 feet from a building. Please be aware that any product that uses an open flame has the potential to start a fire elsewhere.

We hope you have a fire safe spring.