With summer just around the corner, fire pit season will be upon us. But what are the regulations around having a backyard fire pit within city limits? 

The regulations are listed under the City of Moose Jaw’s Fire Safety Bylaw 5567. 

Under the bylaw, all fire pits and outdoor fireplaces must meet the following regulations: 

  • The fire must be contained in a non-combustible receptacle made of concrete, clay, brick or sheet metal with a minimum 18-gauge thickness. 
  • The pit must be covered with a heavy gauge metal screen with openings no larger than 13 millimetres or half an inch. 
  • The size of the firebox of the receptacle does not exceed 75 centimetres or 30 inches in any dimension. 

The fuel used for any fire pits or outdoor fireplaces must be only charcoal, cut-seasoned wood or manufactured fire logs under the bylaw. 

Items you cannot burn in a fire pit or outdoor fireplace include: 

  • Waste including garbage, slimes, manure, treated or painted lumber, livestock or animal carcasses, tailings, garden refuse or scraps. 
  • Any material classified by city authorities as hazardous material or dangerous goods 
  • Any material that generates black smoke or an offensive odor when burned including, but not limited to, insulation from electrical wiring, rubber tires, asphalt shingles, hydrocarbons, plastics and lumber treated with wood preservatives. 

“People put all kinds of crazy things in fire pits sometimes, especially this time of year because it's spring clean-up. So, there's lots of things that you shouldn't burn. You should only burn clean, dry wood in your fireplace,” said Cathie Bassett, Public Education Officer for the Moose Jaw Fire Department. 

The bylaw also outlines where fire pits and outdoor fireplaces can be located. Fire pits must be located three metre or 10 feet from any combustible materials, buildings, porches, decks, similar amenity spaces or property lines. Fire pits also cannot be located on combustible decks or on apartment balconies. 

The bylaw regulated that a fire pit must be separated from grass and any other vegetation by a distance of at least 40 centimetres or 16 inches by clean earth, sand, gravel or other non-combustible mediums. There should also be no overhanging tree branches, utility lines or structures. 

A fire pit will be deemed illegal if the smoke causes unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of another people’s property. Bassett recommends talking to your neighbours before building a fire pit to ensure it will not cause any problems. 

“Be a good neighbor and see if it's OK. If you do have backyard fires, some people are very allergic to smoke and if their bedroom window is right next to where your fire pit is going to be, it wouldn't be a really nice thing to do for your neighbours,” she said. 

Fire pits or outdoor fireplaces are banned during windy conditions that are conducive to spreading a fire. 

Open-air fires must always be supervised by an adult at all times, according to the bylaw, and an extinguisher must be readily accessible. If the fire gets out of control and you can’t extinguish it, call 9-1-1 immediately. 

Fire pits are also banned from use between the hours of 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. Bassett added that, for extra safety, make sure your fire is completely put out before leaving it unattended. 

If requested by the fire chief, a member of the Moose Jaw Fire Department, a bylaw enforcement officer or a peace officer, a person must extinguish the fire in a fire pit or outdoor fireplace. 

Finally, the bylaw states outdoor fires are prohibited when the fire chief declares a fire ban. 

You can read the entire Fire Safety Bylaw here. The section on fire pits and outdoor fireplaces starts on Page 13.