Enjoying an outdoor residential fire pit is a great way for families and friends to spend time together, regardless of the season. The Airdrie Fire Department (AFD) is urging residents to learn how to enjoy those outdoor fire pits safely and responsibly, according to Deputy Fire Chief Garth Rabel.
“We just have to really be cognizant, these fires can really injure or burn, especially small children,” he said. “We really have to keep an eye on things to keep everyone safe.”
The rules for having a fire pit within Airdrie are laid out in the City’s Emergency Services Bylaw. These rules, according to Rabel, are intended to ensure everyone stays safe – those using the fire pits and their neighbours.
Fire pits should be a minimum of three metres from any combustible material, including fences, outbuildings, decks and sheds.
“Keep in mind that in smaller backyards with mature trees, there’s also a threat of overhanging foliage, as well,” he said. “You should have a water source available – put your garden hose out next to you.”
A spark arrestor screen will stop the sparks from getting into trouble spots and should be utilized to cover the fire pit opening. The opening of the fire pit should not exceed one metre at its widest point and the sides must be composed of brick, concrete blocks or heavy gauge metal.
“The majority that we see are exactly that,” Rabel said. “Gone are the days when people put rocks in a circle.”
Rabel said the AFD recently completed a review of its statistics and found no emerging trends regarding issues with fire pits.
“It was just an opportunity to revisit the bylaw and make sure that everything is still relevant, and then to reach out to the public again,” he said. “We did have to address the concerns that some people had, and then educate the people, as a whole, as to the safe use and responsible use of fire pits in our communities.”
Rabel said the review was done in response to a request from Airdrie City council for more information after a resident came to the May 23 council meeting with concerns about his neighbour’s fire pit.
At the June 18 council meeting, Deputy Fire Chief Linda Masson said the AFD responded to 38 fire pit complaints in the last three years – 16 calls in 2016, 18 calls in 2017 and four calls to end of May 2018.
“(Firefighters) met with the homeowner to ensure they are being compliant (with the bylaw),” Rabel said. “They’re burning…clean, combustible material, they’re using a proper fire pit and it’s positioned properly in the backyard.”
If a resident is found to be using a fire pit incorrectly, Rabel said responding firefighters will educate them on the proper use and mitigate any issues.
Fire Prevention Week – held each October – is a chance for the AFD to educate residents about all aspects of fire safety. This year, Rabel said the department will also be providing information about fire pits at its annual open house, held at the main fire hall on Chinook Winds Drive.
“We’ll be talking about fire pits moving forward into the fall and a new year,” he said. “We’ll be talking about the chimineas, we’ll be talking about the tabletop propane units – they’re all acceptable, but they’re not acceptable if we’re not using them responsibly.”