As outdoor fire pits continue to grow in popularity, the Falmouth Fire Department wants residents to consider some key factors. Courtesy

FALMOUTH — With increasing popularity of backyard fire pits, the Fire Department believes it’s time to provide residents with key information about their safe use.

The department has published a brochure, available online and in hard copy, that includes “recommended guidelines to promote outdoor fire safety,” Fire Chief Howard Rice said.

Free copies of the brochure are available at Town Hall on Falmouth Road, the Mason-Motz Activity Center on Middle Road and the Central Fire Station on Bucknam Road.

Since fire pits are not regulated by the town or the state, Rice said he’s unsure how many people in Falmouth have added them to their backyards.

But he said the anecdotal evidence indicates they’re becoming as popular locally as they are in other parts of the country. They are generally used for warmth, recreation and outdoor cooking, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Rice said so far the Fire Department has not had any issues with people not extinguishing their fire pits properly or having a fire get out of control.


But he also said firefighters have responded to a few complaints from neighbors about the smoke from pits “being an annoyance.”

Rice said the idea to create an informational brochure about how to safely use fire pits came from the Town Council’s Ordinance Committee. He said the brochure mostly relies on the fire safety standards set by the Maine Bureau of Forestry for outdoor fireplaces, grills, and campsites.

“These are very basic standards that promote common sense and outdoor fire safety,” Rice said.

Some of the information in the brochure was already on the Fire Department’s website, Rice said, but Assistant Chief Jay Hallett did additional research and all the information was then pulled together during meetings with the Ordinance Committee.

Many of the brochures were printed on in-house photocopiers, Rice said, but a small batch was printed professionally and the cost for that came out of the Fire Department budget.

Among the tips are to never have a fire on air quality alert days and never burn plastics, paper, cardboard, food waste or trash. In locating a fire pit, it’s important that it be at least 30 feet away from a combustible structure and there should be no overhanging branches within 15 feet.


The department also recommends that homeowners keep the area around the fire pit clean and free of litter and other combustible materials, and have a nearby water supply available to extinguish any fires that may start outside the pit.

Other tips include considering the direction the wind generally blows and whether smoke from the fire might blow in the direction of a neighbor’s home or backyard. The Fire Department also suggests that residents have a conversation with their neighbors before installing a fire pit “because it may save you from having a more difficult discussion later.”

In addition, residents who live in densely populated neighborhoods should consider keeping their fire pit on the smaller side, according to the brochure.

The EPA also suggests only burning seasoned, dry wood and taking extra care if you live in a region where brush fires are of concern.

The EPA website says that paying attention to such details will only “increase your enjoyment of outdoor fires by knowing you’re doing all you can to burn cleanly, safely, and responsibly for your family, neighbors and community.”

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