URBAN DECODER: Dreaming of a campfire this long weekend? Get the ins and outs of outdoor fires in Ottawa

DEAR URBAN DECODER: I want to have a campfire in my backyard this summer, but I’m confused about whether or not I’m allowed. Are there certain restrictions?

Good question, but the answer really depends on what area of the city you live in.

According to the City of Ottawa, outdoor fires — including open-air, outdoor fireplaces, and campfires — are not permitted in urban areas of the city. Strict rules have been put in place to ensure the safety of both people and buildings within the city. Things like lot size, the proximity of surrounding buildings, and population density come into play with the burning bylaw.

If you live in a more rural area of Ottawa, you may be allowed. But not so fast — there are certain rural areas of the city where open-air, outdoor fireplaces, and campfires are still not permitted. For instance, Osgoode and Manotick are permitted to use outdoor fireplaces and campfires, but Munster Hamlet is not. The City of Ottawa has a comprehensive map on their website detailing in which areas of the city certain fires are permitted. Wait before you pick up the firewood, though. The city requires you to apply for a permit beforehand, which can be done at designated City of Ottawa Client Service Centres and fire administrative offices. (For more information on burn permits, see here.)

If you live in an area where fires are permitted, there are just a few things to remember. Make sure your campfire is at least 15 metres away from surrounding items, like your home, hedges, fences, overhead wiring, or anything else that could catch on fire. Also make sure that you’re not using anything but dry firewood. If you’re using an outdoor fireplace (think chimineas, metal, or masonry units), remember that the fireplace should stay a minimum of 5 metres away from all of the items listed above. Also, it’s best to check to make sure there isn’t a fire ban in place where you live.

If you’re still unsure, consult with your local fire department. They’ll be able to advise you about any rules associated with the ward in which you live.

If everything checks out and you’ve got the green light, then get the S’mores ready.

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  • dayanti

    Friends of mine checked this a few years ago, and were told it was OK if it was a cooking fire, so they always kept a pack of hotdogs around ;)

  • Duff Marley

    Campfires belong at the cottage or at a campsite, not in an urban area where the woodsmoke is entering other people’s homes and properties. Use propane, do it out of town, or be prepared to be treated like a selfish jerk … because that’s what you are when you engage in a selfish frivolous activity at the expense of hundreds of other people’s health and ability to enjoy their property.

  • Bushguy

    Stay in your condo cityboy