I hope everyone is taking some time to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.

A lot of people like to have bonfires in the evening during the summer, so I would like to explain the expectations the fire department has regarding burning out doors with in the city limits.

The Fire Department of West Fargo follows the International Fire Code, I mention this because it contains the code that relates to burning outside. Of course you realize, it isn’t as easy as saying, “yes, you can burn.”

There has to be regulations and guidelines because everyone’s perspective is different, one person sees a small campfire as being adequate and the next person has a the “bigger the better” mentality.

Let’s review the different types of fires that are allowed in West Fargo. There are two types of fires explained in the fire code, recreational fires and open burning.

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The most popular is the recreational fire, which you will see most families have in their back yards or driveways. This type of fire is allowed in West Fargo with the following stipulations:

  • All fires have to be contained in a burn container with a screen to prevent embers from coming out.
  • Burn containers have to be of an approved type, such as sold in local stores.
  • Any larger container will not be allowed due to safety factors and risks involved.  Fires cannot be located within 25 feet from a structure or other combustible material.
  • A means of extinguishment needs to be close by, such as a water hose or fire extinguisher.
  • Small branches and twigs are allowed to be burned. Grass, leaves or garbage material are not allowed to be burned.
  • If the fire index is very high, no burning will be allowed. You can find this by contacting the fire  department (433.5380) or by visiting the North Dakota Fireman’s Association web page.

You should also be aware of the wind conditions. Smoke and embers can carry fast under breezy conditions and cause fires elsewhere. Remember if the fire department gets a complaint due to smoke or other concerns associated with your fire; you will be getting a visit from the fire department. A visit that will be complete with a fire truck (lights and sirens) and maybe a police officer.

The other type of burning that is allowed is open burning. Open burning is a completely different and normally conducted by contractors. It is very rare when open burning is allowed within the city limits, however, there are times when the fire department will allow it. Before this occurs, a permit application has to be filled out providing information such as, the site plan, how much material, the distances from other combustibles/structures. A fire inspector will go and look at the site and determine if it is safe and will not cause smoke problems throughout the city.

If it is approved for burning, they can burn with restrictions, such as a certain wind direction, only certain amounts at a time and of course no burning without an extinguishable source and someone standing by until the fire is out.

Open burning is often used when the debris would be hard to move like a downed buildings or large amounts of trees.

I hope this explains some of the factors that come into play regarding recreational fire and open burning.

Have a fire safe summer.