Virginia Beach Fire Department Wants Citizens to Be Safe When Conducting Open Burning and Recreational Fires

Virginia Beach Fire Department Wants Citizens to Be Safe When Conducting Open Burning and Recreational Fires
September 23, 2022

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (Sept. 23, 2022) — With cooler temperatures comes an increase in outdoor activities. The Virginia Beach Fire Department (VBFD) wants to remind citizens that open burning and recreational fires are allowed within the City of Virginia Beach and we want them to be safe. However, there is a strict set of Fire Code Regulations* that must be followed to ensure the safety of structures and nearby neighbors.

All open burning poses risks to the environment and public health. Smoke pollutes the air we breathe and can also become a nuisance, especially to neighbors. Burning only approved materials (dried logs) and following state and local regulations can minimize the potential for these harmful effects.

The VBFD recommends citizens review the Opening Burning and Recreational Fires FAQs prior to starting a recreational fire.

Opening Burning and Recreational Fires FAQs

  • Opening burning that is offensive or objectionable because of smoke emissions or when atmospheric conditions or local circumstances make such fire hazardous shall be prohibited.
  • The Fire Department has the authority to extinguish any fire, permitted or not, that creates or adds to a hazardous or objectionable situation. Any repeated calls for service to a particular location may require that the fire be extinguished.
  • Permits are required for pit burns and bonfires.
    • Permitted fires must be at least 50 feet from any structure and provisions shall be made to prevent the fire from spreading within 50 feet of any structure. Bonfires can be no larger than 5 ft x 5 ft x 5 ft.
  • Recreational fires must be at least 25 feet from any structure or combustible material. These fires can be no larger than 3 feet wide by 2 feet tall. Anything larger will be considered a bonfire, which is prohibited without an approved permit.
  • Portable outdoor fire fireplaces (commercially sold units) must be at least 15 feet from any structure or anything combustible.
  • Fires must be attended to at all times, and the means to extinguish a fire must be readily available for instant use. An extinguisher with a minimum rating of 4-A and/or other approved equipment such as dirt, sand, water barrels, garden hoses, or water trucks shall be available for instant use.
  • Hot embers and ashes shall be thoroughly extinguished when the fire is no longer attended to and prior to disposal in a non-combustible container.

Other recommended safety tips to follow:

  • State regulations prohibit the open burning of any material that creates dense smoke or noxious odors. No one in Virginia may burn tires or other hazardous materials at any time.
  • Make sure there are no tree branches, power lines, or other material above the location of the fire. Wet down the surrounding area before, during, and after the burn.
  • Always have water and fire tools on site. Keep a water-charged hose, a bucket of water, a shovel, and dirt or sand nearby to extinguish the fire.
  • Stay with the fire. Virginia law requires that you monitor a fire continually from start to finish until the fire is completely out.
  • Extinguish the fire. Drown the fire with water, stir the coals, and drown again. Repeat until the fire is completely out. Make sure that ashes from a fire pit, fireplace, or grill are completely out before disposing of them in metal, non-combustible containers.
  • Call 911. If your fire escapes or gets beyond your control, call 911 immediately; even a slight delay may be disastrous. Do NOT try and fight the fire unless it is small and you can do so safely and easily. Leave this up to trained firefighters.

*NOTE: City Code sections 12.1-12.6 have separate stipulations that are not found in the Fire Code, which must also be followed.
For more information review the Opening Burning and Recreational Fires FAQs or contact the Fire Marshal's Office at (757) 385-4228, email VBFMO@vbgov.com or visit: www.vbgov.com/fire-prevention.

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