Bright flames and crackling logs are the sights and sounds of many summer nights throughout South Dakota. Starting a fire at home or at the campsite is a relaxing way to spend time with family and friends. However, there are several precautions to follow to ensure a safe and fun night around the fire.
Recreational fires are allowed in the city limits of Aberdeen and throughout Brown and Spink counties. Recreational fires are considered three feet in diameter or less and should be contained by steel, concrete, or other nonflammable material such as rocks. Metal fire pits purchased at local stores are also allowed. In Spink County the fire should be covered.
“Can a person have a backyard fire? The answer is yes but the pit must have a protective screen cover of some sort,” Spink County Emergency Manager Larry Tebben said.
Here are a few more tips from local fire officials to consider before building a backyard fire.
Watch the Weather
It is important to check the weather before starting a fire to make sure the flames can be contained.
“If it has been dry for an extended period, or if the wind is blowing hard, it is best to reconsider having a fire,” Aberdeen Fire Marshal Chad Nilson said.
Officials recommend checking the Aberdeen National Weather Service website or other news sources for weather conditions. If there is a burn ban in effect in the county it is also important to check if the ban includes recreational fires. In most cases the burn ban likely includes backyard fire pits.
Burn Only Seasoned Wood
Seasoned wood is dry and does not produce as much smoke as wet wood. Fire officials say wet wood should not be used in a fire pit. It is also prohibited to burn tires, rubber, oil, plastics, landscape waste, leaves or grass in a backyard fire pit.
“When the conditions are right to have your fire, be a good neighbor and make sure your campfire smoke isn’t blowing into your neighbor’s house,” Nilson said.
Leave Enough Space
Fire officials say it is extremely important to keep the area around a fire pit clear of any flammable material. This includes anything that could start on fire above the flames such as tree branches or wooden pergolas. Fire pits should be kept a minimum of 15 feet away from any structures or any other flammable materials such as decks or sheds. Homeowners should also make sure a 15-foot distance is maintained above the fire and from the lot line of a neighboring property.
Monitor the Fire
Once the fire is started it should be monitored. Adult supervision is important. Unattended children should never be left around the fire pit.
“The fire must be attended by an adult at all times. Fires must be extinguished before the adult attending the fire leaves the area,” Brown County Emergency Manager Scott Meints said.
Suppression materials such as sand or water from a garden hose should be kept nearby and should be ready to use if the fire gets out of control.
Extinguish the Fire
Use sand or water to fully extinguish the fire at the end of the night. The fire should be monitored until all the coals are out.
“After you pour your water or sand over the fire, you will want to monitor the fire for a period of time to be sure that all the embers have been extinguished,” Nilson said. “Often by taking a shovel and gently stirring the fire it can help your water or sand mix with embers lower in the fuel area.”
Following a few of these simple tips will make backyard fires safe, enjoyable, and fun all summer long.