Recreational fires include camp and cooking fires, backyard barbecues, chimneas and other patio warmers that burn charcoal, natural firewood, or manufactured logs and pellets. The fires are limited to private property and designated areas on public lands when restrictions are not in place.
Recreational Fires - Requirements
- Recreational fires may be no larger than three feet in diameter and two feet in height and may not be used for disposal. A permit is not required though rules, must be followed. Outdoor fires fueled by wood or charcoal must be a minimum of 25 feet away from any structure. Other local rules may apply to recreational fires, such as homeowner association covenants, rental agreements, etc. Also, contact the building/permit department in your jurisdiction—permits are required for some types of outdoor fireplaces and other burning devices. Burn barrels are prohibited throughout Washington state. Download this Recreational Fire Fact Sheet (pdf).
- Social event fires are fires associated with a public event or celebration, and are typically limited to ten feet in diameter by five feet in height and may not be used for the purpose of disposal. A written permit is required for these fires. Contact Derek Aubrey prior to submitting your permit application, to ensure that you meet the criteria. He can be reached at (509) 477-4727, extension 120 or email.
It is important these requirements are followed whenever you have a recreational fire:
- Keep it small not tall. Fires must not exceed three feet in diameter and two feet in height.
- Fuel it right. Only approved fuels may be used: charcoal, natural gas, propane, firewood. Firewood must be dry, clean and natural (untreated) or manufactured logs. The fire cannot be used to dispose of anything, including paper, natural vegetation, garbage, etc.
- Stay clear of structures. Outdoor wood-fueled recreational "open fires/fire pits" must be a minimum of 25' away from any combustibles and structures. The manufactured enclosed recreational fire devices with spark arrestors and/or screens typically have a 15' setback requirement.
- Stand guard and extinguish. A person capable of extinguishing the fire must attend it at all times, and the fire must be completely extinguished before leaving it.
- Ask first. Permission from a landowner, or owner's designated representative, must be obtained before starting a recreational fire. The fire may not cause a nuisance to your neighbors with excessive smoke and odors. Other rules may apply to your use of a recreational fire, such as homeowner association covenants, rental agreements, fire protection issues, etc.
- Mind the ban. Most recreational fires are prohibited during a burn ban. Some contained recreational fires, such as barbecues and chimneas, may be allowed. State and local air quality agencies may restrict outdoor burning based on air quality concerns. Local fire officials restrict outdoor burning based on fire danger, which is typically July - September. Always check the Burn Ban Status at before starting your fire at (509) 477-4710 or online. Or, subscribe to receive emails of burn restrictions.
- Be a good neighbor. It is always illegal to smoke out your neighbors. If smoke from your recreational fire bothers your neighbors, poses a threat or causes damage to their property or otherwise causes a nuisance, you must put it out immediately. For these reasons, you may wish to consider purchasing gas or electric devices versus wood burning units.
Smoke and Your Health
Burning natural firewood is a health concern for the burner and everyone who has to breathe it. Smoke contains microscopic particles that contain toxic compounds, such as polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. When inhaled, fine particles collect in the lungs, causing structural and chemical changes and damage to the alveoli (tiny air sacs where oxygen enters the blood stream). The small particles act as carriers for other toxic materials. Those are greatest risk include young children, the elderly, and those with existing heart or lung diseases. Consider the alternatives to wood burning devices, such as propane, electric or natural gas devices.
Contact Spokane Clean Air if you have any questions regarding recreational fires or any other type of outdoor burning programs. Call (509) 477-4727 or complete the online contact form. Our staff will respond within two business days.