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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fire Pits - Open Burn in Ma Illegal or Legal?

With the cooler nights it's kinda nice to sit outside and enjoy the peace and quite of the night.
What's better than sitting in front of an open fire - maybe roast some marshmallows, sip a glass of wine. 
Wouldn't it be great - if people didn't abuse that?  If people didn't get stupid drunk and not pay attention to their open fire pits - chock full of wood and spark flying everywhere? 

I'm writing about this because several of my friends have fire pits and they are responsible. They never leave the pit unattended nor do they allow children to play with fire.  I have a good size backyard I could easily fit one with no problem.  The BUT... is I have trees.  Naturally, I would hope my neighbors can see those same trees (they are pretty tall) and see the danger. NOPE! 

I also have several friends that have become increasingly alarmed at the fire pits - popping up in backyards.  There concerns are justified.  The houses in Lawrence are just to close together for open fire pits.  MAYBE... that's a big maybe if the protective tops were left on - as recommended by the manufacture and they didn't load in so much wood and they didn't leave the children to play with stick inside the pit, there might not be so much concern.  This is not just about the kids - it's about their homes getting burned down due to an irresponsible idiot. 

I looked and looked - but I can not find any city ordinance that allows or does not allow fire pits. 

What I did find was a Massachusetts state law on open burning. 

22 communities that do not allow open burning at all: Arlington, Belmont, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Medford, New Bedford, Newton, Somerville, Springfield, Waltham, Watertown, West Springfield, and Worcester.

I also found that the EPA - has some very tough regulations on burning:
The Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and your local fire department limit open burning for public health and safety reasons. Open burning pollutes the air and can make it difficult for people with respiratory problems to breathe. When the air is stagnant, open burning can pose smoke and odor nuisances - and health risks - to nearby residents, particularly in densely populated areas. Open burning can also pose a safety risk when it is not adequately controlled. The limits on open burning do not apply to outdoor cooking.

Open Fire Pits - Methuen  (Andover has the same policy.)

Methuen Fire Department's policy concerning the use of "Open Fire Pits" is this:There is no type of special permit required for the use of outdoor fire pits on private property. However, there are some simple rules to follow. 1. Keep the fire small and manageable (less than 3' in diameter).2. Never use wet, damp, or "new" wood. This creates needless, irritating smoke. Always use dry, seasoned wood, charcoal, or specialist fuel (e.g. wood burning briquettes).3. Do not cause a nuisance to neighbors.4. If Methuen Fire Department receives complaints from neighbors that the smoke or smell is bothersome to them, we will investigate, and if deemed necessary, you may be instructed to extinguish, or allow it to burn out.5. The fire pit should be sited on a flat surface that is non-combustible. An area should be cleared around it 15' in all directions of all vegetation and combustibles.6. If using a manufactured fire pit, it is to be placed on a flat and level surface. The fire pit should not wobble at all. 7. If assembly is required, be sure to read the assembly instructions carefully and attach any fastenings securely.8. Do not leave the fire unattended. It could pose a hazard to both children and pets. Note - it is possible to buy a safety guard.9. Make sure that the fire pit is placed away from other materials that could burn or catch fire, both overhead and to the side, such as tree branches, sheds, awnings, clothes lines, fences and plants.10.Use long barbecue tongs to handle wood or food to lessen the risk of burning yourself. A pair of fire gloves would also be useful - the sides of cast iron fire pits in particular get very hot.11.Never use a manufactured fire pit indoors.12.It is advisable to keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose handy, for quick extinguishment if necessary.13.Never use an accelerant to light any fire. There have been cases of people burning themselves while trying to light a fire with a "small amount" of gasoline. The fire will "flash back" on the person, and can cause severe burns, and possibly death.14.You should call Methuen Fire Department prior to lighting your outdoor fire at 978-983-8940 so we are aware that you are conducting outdoor burning.
This last week homeowners have called the Lawrence Fire department after noticing children playing with the burning wood and sparks flying close to their home.  The LFD - didn't make them put the fire out. 

So... what's the answer to the burning question.  Are fire pits legal or illegal in this city? If they are legal, then we all need some guidance, some clarification and something published. 

I'm really fed-up with people doing whatever they want - just because no one is paying attention.  

Update: 9-18-2014 It is illegal. 

As long as you have a package of hot dogs and a garden hose nearby - you can break the law.  And live with the consequences when you burn down your neighbors home. 

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