“Don’t play with fire.”
It’s the golden rule when it comes to burning wood or grilling in the backyard.
And with the warmest days of the year at our doorstep, City of Fond du Lac Division Chief of Fire Prevention Troy Haase wants to remind people to be attentive when setting controlled fires.
Open burning is prohibited within the corporate limits, and there are restrictions on the use of grills and devices used for outdoor fires.
Fines for violations range from $50 to $271.50 for a first offense and up to $334.50 for second offenses.
Know the boundaries
According to the City Fire Code “No grills or devices used for outdoor fires for cooking are authorized to be used above the first story of any building on a balcony, raised porch or platform, etc. except for properly maintained liquid petroleum or liquid natural gas outdoor cooking appliances that have tanks no greater than 2.7 pounds water capacity or 1.02 pounds LP gas capacity.”
Recreational fires must be no closer than 25 feet from any dwelling, building structure, shed or garage, or closer than 10 feet from any wooden fence, deck or combustible material, according to the ordinance. Fires must be set back a minimum of six feet from adjoining property lines.
The requirements are meant to keep people safe, but it isn’t enough to just follow the rules. Showing respect to neighbors may be the difference between a barbecue or an evening by the fire, or having your flame snuffed out by the fire department and a ticket from law enforcement.
A complaint from an unhappy neighbor is the only justification needed to force a fire to be extinguished.
“We’re going to start with that kind of stuff,” Haase said of rival neighbors. “Even if they meet all the requirements, if (neighbors) are complaining about it, it has to be put out. If the smoke is going in someone’s house and they don’t like it, they call us and we go out there and we have to put it out.”
While complaints sometimes become a game between quarreling neighbors, Haase said, “that’s the way (the law) works.”
Anything from wind speed, wood, age and the proper equipment can be cause to put out a flame, according to the City Fire Code.
“Fuel for outdoor recreational fires shall consist of natural wood or manufactured fire log material only and may not include leaves, rubbish, garbage, trash, construction materials, any materials coated with rubber or plastic, leather or petroleum-based materials and may not contain any flammable or combustible liquids. Flammable or combustible liquids may not be used to aid in starting any outdoor fire,” according to the ordinance.
Standard dry kindling may be used to start any outdoor fire, but no burn barrels are allowed within the corporate limits.
Fire pits must also be up to snuff. Approved fire pits must meet the following requirements:
• Ground pits can be no more than 36 inches inside diameter.
• They must be lined with non-combustible material
• Pits must be a minimum of six inches deep.
• They must be ringed on the outer diameter with stone, brick or concrete.
A commercially designed outdoor fireplace must be used with all lids, screens and “spark arresting devices” in place. All fires must be supervised by a competent person at least 18 years old, and a means to extinguish any fire must be nearby.
'Tis the season
There were five incidents related to yard fires in Fond du Lac during April, including three in the past six days, according to Haase.
Warm, dry weather has led to a steady stream of calls for brush fires started by Fond du Lac County residents burning grass and branches snapped off by an ice storm earlier this month.
The current Forest Fire Danger Rating is “High” in the county, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website at dnr.wi.gov.
“We finally had some nice weather and people are outside (working on their yards),” Lamartine Fire Chief Joe Birschbach said. “People are just cleaning up and it’s getting away from them.”
Controlled fires should be reported prior to the burn to the Fond du Lac Fire Department or local fire agency by calling non-emergency numbers. Departments can advise of any adjacent burns or required permits and prepare to respond, if necessary.
Carlos Munoz may be reached at (920) 907-7921 or email@example.com.