As the weather changes and Minnesota dethaws, it’s time to head to the backyard for another season of cozy bonfires with friends and family. While bonfires can be a lot of fun, they also carry inherent risks — so it’s essential to follow proper safety guidelines and regulations.
Whether you’re new to building bonfires or have years of experience on the trail, it’s always a good idea to refresh your knowledge on the best practices for staying safe while you swap stories and roast marshmallows around the warm glow of a fire.
Minnesota Bonfire Requirements
Beyond common-sense best practices, Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety dictates lawful recreational fire requirements. By following these rules, you can ensure that your bonfire is enjoyable and safe for everyone.
According to Minnesota law, recreational fires (bonfires) must be placed at least 25 feet away from buildings or other combustible materials, including wood, paper, and plastics. You are also required to eliminate all other conditions within 25 feet of the fire which could cause the blaze to spread. Your LP-Gas container should be located at least 10 feet away from the fire.
You must also ensure that the fire is tended constantly until it is extinguished. This means that if you have to step away from the fire momentarily, you must either put the fire out until you return or designate someone else to tend it.
Permitted Recreational Fire Materials
Recreational fires may be built from brush, small branches, wood from trees, and charcoal. You are not permitted to burn treated lumber, construction debris, garbage, plastic materials, or any other waste materials in your bonfire.
Before you gather your kindling and take out your s’mores supplies, ensure that you have an approved fire extinguishing device on hand whenever possible. Approved fire extinguishers comply with MSFC Section 906 and have a minimum 4-A rating.
If you do not have an approved fire extinguishing device, make sure you have other means to put out the fire on hand such as dirt, sand, or a garden hose. Even the most diligent, expert bonfire builders may experience dangerous conditions if a strong gust of wind carries sparks away from the flame.
Recreational fires must be immediately extinguished if they pose a safety risk or if you are requested to do so by a fire code official.
Portable Outdoor Fireplaces
Portable, outdoor, solid-fuel-burning fireplaces made of steel, concrete, clay, or other non-combustible materials must be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. You may not use a portable outdoor fireplace within 15 feet of a structure or combustible material. Even though the flames are enclosed, you should still ensure that these portable fires are used in compliance with the recreational fire guidelines above.
Check With Your Local Fire Marshal To Ensure Compliance With Local Regulations
Some jurisdictions have ordinances that may require your fire to be extinguished if someone on a neighboring property complains about smoke. Cities may also have different restrictions for bonfires depending on wind speeds, but even if they don’t, exercise your best judgment here. High winds could increase the risk of your fire spreading. Consult local fire officials in your jurisdiction for more information.
It’s warming up in the north! By complying with local and state recreational fire regulations, you can ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and your friends as you create happy memories around the bonfire this season.