Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the weather with friends and family. While fires can be great for socializing and enjoying the outdoors, they do come with inherent risks. Here we will try to outline the common issues, considerations, and guidelines to help everyone enjoy fires safely this season.
In addition, each city or jurisdiction, has different rules, bylaws, and regulations for backyard fires. Read on to find out the backyard fire rules for Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge, and Wilmot Township.
But First, Safety
There are some great resources and tips to ensure the safe enjoyment of campfires. One such source is the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (source below). Here are a few recommendations:
» Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and follow local burning regulations
» Keep up-to-date on fire bans in the area
» Build campfires where they will not spread; well away from tents, trailers, dry grass, leaves, overhanging tree branches or any other combustible
» Build campfires in fire pits provided or on bare rock or sand, if no fire pit is provided
» Maintain a 2 to 3.5 metre (6 – 10 foot) clearance around your campfire
» Never leave campfires unattended
» Ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times
» Keep plenty of water and a shovel around to douse the fire when you’re done. The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers!
Considering that the average campfire can get as hot as 500°C (932°F) in as little as 3 hours and it takes as little as 1 second of contact with a 70°C (158°F) campfire to cause 3rd degree burns, it’s easy to see how the proper precautions and preparations can make the difference between an enjoyable fire experience and a dangerous situation.
Don’t Forget to Check the Bylaws
Not everywhere in Waterloo Region permits backyard fires. For example, while the City of Kitchener will allow fires while following certain guidelines, the City of Waterloo currently does not allow for any backyard fires at all.
As mentioned, Kitchener does allow backyard fires, so long as:
» The fire is contained in a fire pit, outdoor fireplace, or backyard chimenea
» You can burn a fire between 6 and 11 p.m., 7 days a week. Please watch where your smoke travels to avoid disturbing your neighbours
» Burn a maximum of 1 metre (3.2 feet) in any direction
» Fire must be fully contained and controlled
» Have no flammable ground cover within 1 metre (3.2 feet) of the fire
» Only burn bush material, including tree limbs, branches and bush trimmings or logs made for fireplaces
» A fire must be at least 5 metres (16.4 feet) from any: property line or fence, building or structure, tree or hedge, road, overhead wire, another flammable item
» From the time of setting the fire until the fire is totally out: have a portable fire extinguisher or working garden hose available, an adult owner or occupant must watch and control the fire
You can find more information from the City of Kitchener, here: Bylaws at home – City of Kitchener.
For the City of Cambridge, residents are required to have a burn permit for fires not used for cooking purposes within the city limits. Similar to Kitchener, the Cambridge Fire Prevention pision will have expectations around how fires are enjoyed, including:
» A distance of at least 150 metres away from a building
» Limit to the size of the fire
» Necessary water supply
» Proper supervision
» What can and can’t be burned
When a permit application is submitted, the Fire Prevention pision inspects the proposed fire area to ensure all permit requirements are met. You can find out more, here: Fire Prevention and Burn Permits – City of Cambridge.
Earlier in 2022, the Township of Wilmot updated their rules for recreational campfires in residential backyards. Residents are now required to purchase an annual permit. Learn more here: Burn Permits – Wilmot Township.
Fire Pit Alternatives
If fire pits are a ‘no go’ for your region or your backyard, don’t worry! Here are some possible alternatives to consider:
» Propane Fire pits
These are fueled by propane and are simply connected to a propane tank. They burn clean and do not produce smoke or ash. A 20 lb propane tank will last approximately 8-9 hours at a moderate gas output. It’s as easy as turning it on, sitting back and enjoying an evening by the fire under the stars.
» Gel Fire Bowls
These can be a great alternative and the fire bowls come in many sizes and colors to suit your outdoor décor. The bowls typically sit on top of your outdoor table and run on gel fuel, which is typically made with isopropyl alcohol and is sold in cans. The fuel burns for approximately 2-3 hours and some available fuel mixtures contain organic material that make a sizzling or popping sound to mimic the sound of burning wood. Another great benefit of gel fuel is that it does not smoke or create soot when burning.
» Propane Fueled Torches
Propane torches can be used to transform your backyard into an elegant paradise. These torches run on propane and depending on the size of the propane tank may provide up to 5 hours of burn time. Some torches allow you to adjust the flame with the turn of a knob.
» LED Flame Lights
More of the high-tech solution. Many are solar lights that when charged by the sun give the appearance of a flame inside the light. These beautiful solar lights flicker like a real flame and light up your backyard beautifully when the sun goes down.
» Fondues and S’more Makers
Perfect options to enjoy those yummy outdoor campfire snacks. They run on liquid or gel fuel and are safe to use in the backyard.
All of these outdoor fire pit options are available at stores like Canadian Tire, Lowes, Home Hardware, Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon, Wayfair to mention just a few.
Check out these great sources for more information:
» Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs – Spring & Summer Fire Safety Tips:
» City of Kitchener Bylaws:
» Cambridge Fire Department:
» Township of Wilmot
» CTV News – Council pours cold water on backyard fires in Waterloo:
Be safe, be knowledgeable, and from all of us at Staebler Insurance, enjoy a fun backyard fire and campfire season!
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Be Wise. Staebler Insurance is a general insurance broker specializing in auto insurance, home insurance, small business, and commercial insurance. Staebler brokers proudly serve Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Stratford, Listowel, Fergus, Elora, Wellington County, Perth County, Waterloo Region and southern Ontario. Get started with a free quote today.