As a roaring fire is a comforting presence on a cold winter night, so too is a crackling blaze from a fire pit on a cool spring evening. Enjoying the beauty of the outdoors while benefiting from the light and heat of the flames gives pleasure to many homeowners. In New Jersey, municipalities are responsible for regulating fire pits for the health and safety of their residents.
Most towns in New Jersey have an interest in keeping flames far from buildings. A Phillipsburg ordinance, for example, requires all outdoor fires to burn at least 10 feet from any structure on a property. This includes detached garages and utility sheds. Going further, the Township of Moorestown specifies that open pit fires must also be 10 feet from any combustible landscapes.
The size and scope of outdoor fires, contained or otherwise, are not ignored by municipal councils. Fires in a pit are still capable of throwing off sparks and destructive heat. Therefore, townships like Cranford limit the range of the fire to 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height. East Greenwich decides on a case-by-case basis, requesting residents to call the fire department prior to starting a pit fire.
The particulars of fire pit tending are also of interest to local officials. Woodbridge Township, among others, mandates that fire pits be covered by wire mesh or metallic screens. Freehold Borough requires the burning pits to be constantly attended. Furthermore, most municipalities give the fire marshal or other prevention officials the authority to put out any fires they deem hazardous or a nuisance to the property or community.
While the New Jersey Uniform Fire Code leaves fire pit regulation largely in the hands of local officers, the state takes a direct interest when it believes environmental quality is sacrificed. Burning wood in pits emits greenhouse gases and particulate matter into the atmosphere. The state continues to monitor carbon dioxide emissions. The Department of Environmental Protection has statutory authority to regulate fire pits if outdoor wood burning becomes more widespread.