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Culture

How Many of These Backyard Fire Laws Have You Broken?

We're guessing at least five.

R.D. Smith

That was a lovely weekend, wasn’t it, folks? Clear skies, temps in the 70s, light breeze—the kind of weather that practically begs you to have a backyard fire.

Maybe even an ILLEGAL backyard fire.

“This time of year, some Minneapolis neighbors will be enjoying more outside time over outdoor fires,” the city of Minneapolis begins in a Friday press release. How true! Surely this is just a friendly note to kick off the spring season with no ulterior motive—ah no wait, here we go: “Following these laws will help keep Minneapolis neighborhoods safe and livable,” the release continues, along with a note that “illegal open burning or recreational fires could result in fines that start at $200.”

Hey, we’re all for safe, healthy, un-burnt-down communities. We’re also close to 100% certain that close to 100% of residents have broken at least a few of these laws during close to 100% of fires. (More like ope-n burning!)

Here are the outdoor fire laws listed by the city of Minneapolis:

  • Outdoor recreational fires are permitted between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Keep fires small: less than three feet in diameter and two feet high.
  • Postpone a fire when Minneapolis is under an air pollution advisory. Fires release fine particles that contribute to air pollution and are implicated in health problems including strokes, heart attacks, and asthma. Sign up for air quality alerts from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
  • Burn only untreated, unpainted, dry wood. Never burn cardboard boxes, trash, or debris, because the smoke can be toxic.
  • Fire must be at least 25 feet away from a structure or combustible material and in a fire ring or pit with edges more than six inches high.
  • Have a hose or fire extinguisher present.
  • Postpone the fire when the wind exceeds 10 mph.
  • Fire must be constantly attended by someone 18 years or older and completely out before being abandoned.

The restrictions are nearly identical in St. Paul.

Speaking carefully here so as to avoid indicting myself… I don’t know anyone in Minneapolis or St. Paul who follows the 25-foot rule, because I don’t know anyone in Minneapolis or St. Paul in a tax bracket allowing for that kind of outdoor space. Burning cardboard feels like something we’ve all done. Three feet by two feet is very, very small; 10 p.m. is pretty dang early.

So hey, happy fire-weather season, everyone. Just out of curiosity, how many of these laws have you broken? Perhaps even as recently as this weekend? We’re guessing at least five.