Friday, June 27, 2014

Residents Concerned About Excessive Smoke From Outdoor Fire Pits And City Requirements For Recreational Fires

We have received several emails from residents concerned about the smoke coming from outdoor firepits and its effects.

One email said: 
My neighbor next door had an outdoor party in the front yard last weekend. The fire pit with wood consumed my house in smoke and I found it necessary to close all windows and blow fans.
It was still difficult to remove the smell. I felt like I was at a campground, but unable to breathe clearly in my living room. The fire department told me to 'calmly go over and ask them to put it out'. 
From what I understand, it is legal as long as it is 25 feet from a structure. But this is annoying to those who don't enjoy breathing in burning wood. 
From my research into the City of Seattle, they are legal if there is no burn ban in effect and the fire can be as tall as 2 feet and 3 feet in diameter, but the set back must be 10 feet from the street.

Here is what the Puget Clean Air website, which regulates outdoor and indoor fires and mandates burn bans according to the current quality of air, says:

  • Fuel it right. Only charcoal, dried firewood or manufactured firelogs may be used. It is illegal to burn anything else.
  • Keep it small not tall. Fires must not exceed three feet in diameter or two feet in height.
  • Stay clear of structures. Check with your local fire department regarding setback requirements.
  • Stand guard and extinguish. A person capable of extinguishing the fire must attend it at all times, and the fire must be extinguished before leaving it.
  • Ask first. Permission from a landowner, or owner’s designated representative, must be obtained before starting a recreational fire.
  • Mind the ban. Recreational fires are always prohibited during air-quality burn bans. They may also be prohibited during a fire-safety burn ban (check with your local fire district.)
  • Be a good neighbor. It is always illegal to smoke out your neighbor. If smoke from your fire bothers your neighbors, damages their property or otherwise causes a nuisance, you must immediately put it out.

  • To determine if an air quality burn ban is in effect, call 1-800-595-4341, or visit their web site at

    And here is information from the Seattle Fire Department on the City website regarding requirements for recreational fires:
    a) No air quality burn ban is in effect.
    b) The fire is not more than three feet in diameter and two feet in height.
    c) The fire is located at least 25 feet from any structure or combustible material. Conditions which could cause a fire to spread shall be eliminated prior to ignition.
    d) Trash, yard waste, rubbish, or paper products are not being burned.
    e) Fire extinguishing equipment is readily available for use. This should include a shovel and two buckets of water, or a charged garden hose or fire extinguisher with a 4-A rating.
    f) The fire is continually attended by an adult until it is completely extinguished.
    g) The fire is not being conducted on public property where fires are prohibited, such as in a park or on school grounds. Fires in parks are only allowed where specifically authorized, and where appropriate burning receptacles are provided.
    h) If the fire is in conjunction with a sweat lodge, the lodge itself must be less than 200 square feet if constructed of a tent.



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