Posted by: Rob | July 29, 2008

The Backyard Fire Pit

I won’t deny that over the years, I have oft enjoyed the socializing and camaraderie that occurs round an outdoor backyard fire pit.  I’ve done the same around camp fires as well.  I’ll even go so far as to say that in my current abode I’ve used the fire pit – apparently in contravention of the rules – to rid my yard and garage of scrap lumber.

Our fire pit is gone now and I wonder whether our thinking needs to change on the whole idea of allowing backyard fire pits.

According to my municipality’s regulations:

A recreational or “pit” fire is defined as a fire that is totally confined within a non-combustible structure or container and has both the draft and smoke vents covered with a heavy-gauge metal screen.

Okay.  My fire pit conformed to that.  And so do most of the ones I see around our neighbourhood.

Pit fires are allowed anywhere within Strathcona County and a fire permit is not required as long as these regulations are followed:
  • The fire pit screen, which confines sparks, requires a mesh size no larger than 13 millimetres. It must allow ventilation and stop the escape of combustible materials including ash. Always replace the screen immediately after refuelling the fire.
  • A recreational fire is only for the purpose of cooking or obtaining warmth, and may only be fuelled with dry wood, charcoal, natural gas or propane.
  • The fire pit must be placed a minimum of three metres (10 feet) away from any combustibles, such as a house, fence, deck, garage, trees or bushes.
  • Never leave a fire unattended, and always ensure it is completely extinguished after use.

Well, that’s all common sense too.  Any one following those regulations wouldn’t be considered a nuisance, I should think.

Strathcona County Emergency Services Fire Chief Darrell Reid also reminds residents to be good neighbours by keeping pit fires small and relatively smokeless. “Smoke is a pollutant that is not only unpleasant, but may also be an irritant to persons with health issues such as asthma or other respiratory ailments,” says Fire Chief Reid. “The effects of enjoying your fire pit should not affect your neighbour’s enjoyment of their backyard.”

Uh oh.  Now we have a problem.

You see, the weather has been fairly “nice” around here of late.  Not too hot, but with enough sunshine during the day, the house does tend to heat up a bit.  We don’t have air conditioning, so the only way to cool off the house is to open most of the windows and use fans to bring in the cool evening air to help push the warm out the upstairs windows.

Not a problem one would think.

Except when some jackass or jackasses sparks up a smoking fire somewhere in the neighbourhood.  And all that smoke is sucked into the house by our fans.

It’s foul smelling.  I mean, I’ve smelled like camp fire before.  But I’ve been camping.  I don’t want to smell like wood smoke in my own home.

Top that off with the fact that Annie has asthma – and wood smoke does a number on her – and you’ve got the grounds for annoyance with inconsiderate neighbours.

I wasn’t feeling much like patrolling the neighbourhood looking for the guilty culprits last night, so I just shut all the windows and we made do with the fans inside.  Not the greatest, but we survived.

Next time, I think I’ll have to lodge a complaint – or a suggestion – with my county councillor.  Maybe it’s time we moved out of the stone age and got rid of back yard firepits.  At least in a semi-suburban setting.


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