OSWEGO, NY – With the arrival of summer, local residents are spending more and more time outdoors enjoying the warmer weather.
Part of that enjoyment for many people is spending time around a camp fire or barbecue.
However, because the city of Oswego has an Open Burning Ordinance, many residents have felt that they were unable to partake in this type of activity.
After reviewing various state and local building and fire codes, as well as Department of Environmental Conservation laws, it has been found that some outdoor fires are in fact permitted.
According to Capt. Justin Norfleet, Fire Inspector for the Oswego Fire Department, there are rules that must be followed for any outdoor fire inside the city limits.
“Foremost, there is no burning of garbage, paper, trash, yard waste, or construction debris allowed at any time. Fires must consist of either charcoal or un-treated wood. The size of outdoor fires and how they are contained also is covered in
these codes,” he said. “You can have a fire in a permanently -installed outdoor fireplace or barbecue pit or in a barbecue grill. The ordinance does not consider these to be open burning.”
Capt. Norfleet said that it’s when fires are not enclosed in these types of containers that it gets more complicated.
How close a fire is located to adjacent structures has a lot to do with the type of outdoor fire that is permitted.
“If you’re using a chiminea-type of fireplace or a fire pit with a spark-arresting cover the fire must be a minimum of 15 feet from any structure. A fence is also considered to be a structure,” he said.
He said that open fires are also permitted.
“Fires 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height are permitted if they are 25 or more feet away from a structure. Anything larger must be a minimum of 50 feet from any structure,” he said.
Fires must also be constantly attended until they are extinguished, and there must be a means of extinguishment readily available at all times.
“This could be a garden hose, a 4A-rated fire extinguisher, or a pile of sand or dirt with a shovel” he said.
The fire department is often called to check on outdoor fires by neighbors who are bothered by the smoke or odor from a fire.
Oswego Fire Department Chief Jeffrey McCrobie said that the New York State fire code prohibits open burning if it is objectionable because of smoke, odor, or locally hazardous conditions.
“Even if all the other regulations are met, if the smoke is bothering your neighbors we are going to ask you to extinguish your fire,” he said.
The alternative is that the fire department will extinguish the fire, he added.
The fire department can also refer issues to the city’s Code Enforcement Officer or to the Oswego Police Department.
If residents have questions regarding this subject, they can contact the Oswego Fire Department at (315) 343-2161.