Backyard Fires and Chimenias

The recent trend in creating backyard living spaces has seen an increased desire for residents to include fire features on their properties. These may range from very small and basic fire bowls, or chimenias all the way to more elaborate masonry fireplaces. As is the case with most major Ontario municipalities, including Toronto and Brampton, most of these features are considered open air burning and are prohibited. In many cases residential property lots in St Catharines are unsuitable for the inclusion of most open fire features because of the inability to ensure proper clearances to combustibles as well as the nuisance and health concerns created by the smoke from these fires.

Following public consultation and a public meeting St Catharines council on February 23, 2015 passed a by-law to regulate the setting and maintaining of Open Air Fires and some other aspects of fire prevention in the City of St. Catharines.

The purpose of this by-law is to ensure the safety and well being of all residents of St. Catharines.

Any fire which is not used for cooking food for human consumption on a residential property regardless of whether it's in a chimenia, firepit, bowl, fireplace, etc... which does not use propane or natural gas is deemed open air burning and is prohibited and will be extinguished.

The owner of a property where an open air fire has occurred is subject to a minimum fee in accordance with the city's rates and fees for the extinguishment of the non-compliant fire and may be prosecuted for contravention of the by-law.


Cooking Fires

A cooking fire not located in a barbecue or smoker is permitted provided that the following regulations are met:

  1. The fire is used for cooking purposes only between the hours of 8am and 11pm.
  2. A suitable means of extinguishing the fire such as a garden house or fire extinguisher is available
  3. Not less than 3 meters (9.8 ft) clearance is provided to any structure, property line, balcony tree, fence, roadway, overhead wires, or other combustible material unless listed for clearance of less than these figures.
  4. The person setting the fire is in constant watch and control of the cooking fire.  From the time that the fire is started, this person must remain within 5 meters (16.4 ft) of the fire, until it is extinguished.  
  5. The cooking area (pit) may not exceed .75 meters square (2.46 x 2.46 feet) and .3 meters (.98 foot) in height
  6. The material being burned is restricted to charcoal, and or dry natural wood which has not, or appears to not have been treated or painted.  No building materials, manufactured or altered wood products may be burned.
  7. The fire must be contained by a non-combustible barrier and equipped with a grill.

Additional requirements:

  • Smoke from the fire does not create a hazard or nuisance to any person as determined by the St. Catharines Fire and Emergency Services
  • The person setting or maintaining the fire is the owner of the property, or a lawful occupant of the property
  • The fire must be completely extinguished immediately upon the completion of cooking.

Acceptable Appliances

However, a number of new products have been introduced which allow residents to experience the ambiance of a fire while eliminating most of the undesirable effects. When shopping for a propane or natural gas appliance for your backyard ensure that it displays one of these certifications. These certifications provide you with the assurance that your backyard propane or natural gas heater, fireplace, fire-pit or barbecue has been tested and certified to meet applicable Canadian and Ontario standards. These appliances, when assembled and used in accordance with the manufacturers instructions and in a safe manner, meet the requirements of both the Ontario Fire Code as well as the new St. Catharines Open Air Burning By-law

Logos of acceptable backyard burning appliances


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