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Backyard fire pits

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Before you start

If you are planning on including an open-flame apparatus in your yard, such as a fire pit, outdoor fireplace, chimney or chimenea, it's important to know the rules, for your safety and enjoyment, as well as your neighbours'.

A fire containing device on private or public property in Medicine Hat must be approved by the Medicine Hat Fire Service  or it is not allowed.

Required: Permit for Fire Containing Device from Medicine Hat Fire Service (see How to apply for a permit, below).

Not required: Development Permit or Building Permit.


A fire containing device must:

•  Be positioned in a back yard only, not in a front yard or a side yard;

•  Be positioned at least 3 meters (10 feet) from any property line, house, garage, fence, deck, shed or any other permanently installed or hard-to-move structures (i.e. benches, play stations etc.);

•  Be positioned at least 3 meters (10 feet) from any trees, branches, shrubs, plants or other materials that might catch fire;

•  Be positioned at least 1 meter (3.3 feet) from a gas line. To obtain the location of gas lines under your property, contact Alberta One Call or call 1-800-242-3447. This is a free service.

Distance requirements apply to both horizontal and vertical directions.

Fire containing devices must be constructed and designed as follows:

•  For in-ground fire pit: The base must consist of sand, gravel or concrete.

•  The fire must be enclosed in a fire container made of rock, concrete block, metal or cured and fired ceramic/clay.

•  The fire container have an inside measurement no larger than 90 cm (3 feet) in diameter or linear length.

•  The fire container must be at least 45 cm (1.5 feet) in height.

•  A metal mesh screen or "spark guard" is required on all openings of a fire containing device, to reduce the spread of embers and sparks. The openings in the mesh screen must not be more than 1.24 cm (1/2 inch) across.

Regulations for safe use
of your fire pit or other fire containing device:

•  A fire must be supervised at all times by a competent adult.

•  Must only be used for warmth, or cooking food for people.

•  Any seating around the fire containing device must be fire-resistant and easy to move.

•  There must be a way to put out a fire nearby (no more than 9 meters or 29.5 feet from the fire containing device). Options are a watering hose, or a container of water or sand (at least 20 litres or 5 gallons).

•  Only burn clean, dry firewood. 

•  Do not burn: Garbage, yard waste, furniture, construction materials, rubber, plastic, tar, or wood that is painted/treated.

•  Do not start any fire outdoors if there is a fire ban in effect.

Did you know?  Wood ashes from your fire pit make a great addition to your compost! For more tips, see the document below:
icon_PDFBackyard Composting.

1 - Draw a diagram of your property, showing:

•  Proposed location of fire-containing device

•  Location of any gas line (see Location rules, above)

•  Distances from property lines, structures, trees etc. (see Location rules, above)

2 - Include a copy of a gas line locate (from Alberta One Call)

3 - Complete application form:

icon_PDFApplication form - Fire containing device

Download and complete the form above, and submit to:
Medicine Hat Fire Station #2
1303 Trans Canada Way SE
Medicine Hat, AB  T1B 1J1

Phone: 403.529.8282
Fax: 403.502.8557

There is no fee to submit an application nor for the permit, if approved. You may also obtain a application form at the address above.

Do not submit your application to Planning & Development Services.

NOTE: Despite the fire-containing device being approved, Medicine Hat Fire Services may require that a fire be extinguished and may revoke any approval if, in the sole opinion of the Fire Department, the fire creates a hazard for reasons which include, but are not limited to, the fire not being tended properly; the fire, or smoke emanating from the fire, creating a nuisance for other property owners, or the fire creating a risk of spreading outside of its approved container.

If you are not the owner of the property where you wish to install a fire pit or other fire-containing device, then you must get the owner's consent to apply for a permit. Obtain a written letter from the property owner expressing their consent for a fire-containing device and include the property address, date, your name, their name and their signature.

Include this letter of consent with your application. 

 Smoke from fire pits can cause adverse health effects in some people. Before using your fire pit, familiarize yourself with optimal wind conditions and take precautions to prevent smoke from disturbing your neighbors.

•  High wind speeds may send smoke long distances or pose a fire hazard.

•  Low wind speeds won’t easily disperse smoke and can contribute to poor air quality.

Accidental fires:  It is mandatory to place a metal mesh screen on top of a fire pit (all openings of a fire containing device). This helps reduce the flame size and helps prevent sparks and embers from escaping and causing damage. See Construction rules, above.

Disturbance:  As with all backyard gatherings, be aware of the amount of noise you are making and be sure to follow the Community Noise Standards bylaw Quiet hours are between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday to Saturday and between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. on Sundays and Holidays. View Bylaw below:

icon_PDFCommunity Noise Standards Bylaw

Condos:  If your property is a part of condominium, you must make sure that your proposed fire containing device is allowable within the condo bylaws. If you are not sure, check with your condo board.