What are the rules for fire department permits?

Fire department permits are issued by the local fire department to allow certain activities. They cover the use of flammable materials that could pose a fire related problem. In general, fire permits give permission to: use, handle, maintain, and store flammable materials; conduct certain activities that will cause conditions that may present a hazard to people or property; and/or install or remove equipment that is connected with these activities. Local fire departments have their own set of rules on issuing fire permits, so regulations vary from locality to locality.     

The Rules for Fire Department Permits

Although the rules for obtaining a fire permit vary from place to place, an inspection of the premises where flammable materials are located is common to all fire department permit applications. This may be a one-time inspection before a permit is issued, or regular recurring inspections may be required as a condition of a permit. This requirement usually pertains to restaurants, schools, theatres, clubs, and other businesses where flammable materials are used by the public or are being used where the public gathers. 

There are also times when a fire department permit may be required for activities done at home:

  • Most fire departments have strict regulations for burning vegetation on your property. For example, it usually has to be clean burning and you may only burn ordinary materials including leaves, lumber, tree branches, and such.
  • Some fire departments only allow outside burning along fence lines or irrigation ditches.
  • Some municipalities do not permit any outside burning at all, and some limit what may be burned. Often, these outside burning rules also include bonfires and campfires.
  • Rules about cooking fires may also exist to mandate sand, gravel, or concrete be placed under the cooking area. In some cases, it is required that there be no flammable material above the cooking area and/or that the grill be permanently fixed.

Other activities that usually need a permit are: selling or operating fireworks, installing and using liquified petroleum gas or oil burning equipment, installing or removing underground fuel tanks, blasting, storing and selling Christmas trees, and events such as carnivals, fairs, exhibits, temporary structures like tents or canopies, and trade shows.

Getting Help Obtaining a Fire Permit

If you are concerned about whether or not you may need a fire department permit, consult a lawyer for advice before proceeding so you don't get into legal trouble.