Fire Safety Guidance for Portable Outdoor Wood Fireplaces & Fire Pits

The Madison General Ordinance (34.307) and the State Fire Code regulate outdoor fireplaces/fire pits.

A citation may be issued for any violation of the following conditions:

Permission of the property owner is required before starting a fire.

Outdoor fireplaces are available through many local department stores. They must be used in accordance with all of the manufacturer's assembly, safety, and operating instructions, and Madison General Ordinance 34.307(6).

Outdoor fireplaces and pits are bowls or pits designed for the holding or burning of wood and shall be allowed without a license, as long as the following conditions are met:

  • Fireplaces shall include a bowl with supports to ensure clearances to combustibles.
  • Pits shall have an enclosure, heavy screen or spark arrestor to control and contain embers and sparks.
  • Fireplaces or pits shall not be used within fifteen (15) feet of a building or lot line.
  • Fireplaces or pits shall be used on a stable level surface.
  • Fireplaces or pits shall not be used on any combustible deck, porch or patio.
  • Only clean, dry wood is permitted to be burned in fireplaces or pits. No trash, yard waste, or construction material shall be burned.
  • If the fireplace is a propane unit, only propane shall be burned.
  • The smoke from the fireplace or pit shall not create a nuisance; MFD has the right to extinguish a fire for any violation of these conditions, or, if the fire is creating a hazard or nuisance. The Fire Officer alone will determine if the fire is creating a hazard or nuisance.
  • Fireplaces or pits shall not be operated when air quality is other than good or moderate as defined by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Contact the City of Madison Public Health Department at 608-266-4821 for fine particulate forecast. More information is available at
  • A fire extinguisher, garden hose or other method of fire control shall be at the ready and in plain sight of fireplace.
  • The fireplace or pit must be supervised at all times by staff. The fire must be completely extinguished before the fireplace or pit is left unsupervised. If a fire is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
  • Coals and ash shall be cooled completely before disposing in a metal container. The coals and ash shall be stored outside.

LP-assisted ignition fireplaces must meet all of the requirements listed above for outdoor fireplaces, as well as the following:

  • Do NOT store/use gasoline or other flammable liquids in the vicinity of this unit.
  • Never leave hose assembly connected when wood is burning.
  • Once the wood is burning, immediately turn the regulator knob to “OFF” and disconnect the LP bottle and hose assembly.
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