Penticton residents reminded of restrictions on outdoor fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces in Penticton must be inspected by the fire department

Before you purchase an outdoor fireplace, the Penticton Fire Department wants you to double check it against local bylaws.

“When the city experiences warmer temperatures, a lot more people use their outdoor spaces,” said Penticton Fire Chief Wayne Williams. “We recommend citizens be aware of the requirements around outdoor fireplaces to alleviate any problems down the road.”

According to the fire and life safety bylaw, Penticton residents must apply to have a permanent outdoor fireplace, and include in the application information like the location and design of the fireplace.

As well, outdoor fireplaces must be inspected by the fire department, which costs $29.40. Fireplaces are permitted to burn only dry, well-seasoned fire wood, be permanently secured to the ground, have a chimney with a one-centimetre spark arrestor, must be placed more than three metres from combustibles and property lines and have a fire box no larger than 24 square inches.

For safety reasons, permanent or portable fireplaces or barbecues that do not meet the regulations listed above can only be used for the preparation of food, and must use briquettes, propane or natural gas. Site inspections are not required in this instance, but safe burning practices are encouraged at all times.

But having a permit doesn’t mean unrestricted use of the fireplace. An outdoor fireplace is only intended for recreational uses and cooking, not burning of trash or garden waste. Burning barrels, by contrast, are not permitted in Penticton back yards.

That’s not an easy thing for the fire department to police, however. Jody Fotherby, operations assistant for the department, says they rely on the good faith of the people applying for a permit.

Once the fireplace is inspected, the Penticton Fire Department encourages safe burning practices: burn only dry, well-seasoned wood, commercial fire logs or briquettes; never leave a fire unattended; be aware of the safety of children and pets; keep the fire small and watch for sparks; have a fire extinguisher or hose handy; and be considerate of neighbours.

“Once the permit is given, all we can do is hope the people are going to follow the bylaw. So we rely on the community,” she said.

“If someone has put a bunch of leaves in their outdoor fireplace, it’s going to cause a lot of smoke. If the smoke is causing a nuisance to the neighbour, we have the right to go there and you’re going to have to shut down.”

Safe burning practices include paying attention to open burning bans, which include fires of all sizes. Fotherby points out that when there is a ban, even the pits on Okanagan and Skaha lakes are removed or covered. Information about current fire bans is available by calling the Penticton Fire Department at 250-490-2305.