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Air Quality Newsletter Air Quality Newsletter
Outdoor Residential Burning
Backyard fire pits can be a great place to gather friends and neighbors, share stories, roast marshmallows. However, smoke and odor generated from wood burning can have unintended negative impacts on those around us.
In March 2019, the City of Fort Collins Council adopted new nuisance code language to address health and nuisance impacts of wood smoke, which affect some of our most sensitive populations such as the young, the elderly and people with heart or lung conditions.
New Air Pollution Nuisance Code Requirements Effective March 29, 2019
- Outdoor wood burning fires must be at least 15 feet from adjacent property lines
- Wood burning fires must be extinguished by 10:00 pm
If you want to have a fire...
Here are some tips to reduce the likelihood of unintended negative impacts on others:
- Talk to your neighbors prior to having a fire. If your neighbors have concerns, consider a compromise (e.g. if, when or where you have your fire).
- Place your fire pit/basin/apparatus at least 15 feet from any combustible surface or structure and at least 15 feet from any property line.
- Burn only clean, dry, seasoned wood (leaves, branches, grass clippings, yard waste are not allowed).
- The total fuel size (wood pile) must be 3 feet or less in diameter, and 2 feet or less in height.
- Have sufficient airflow to allow for efficient burning.
- Never leave your fire unattended and be able to react appropriately should an issue arise.
- Fully extinguish the fire with water by 10:00 pm.
If someone's fire is negatively impacting you...
People can have portable wood burning fireplaces or portable fire pits in their yard, but they need to follow fire safety and smoke nuisance rules. Here are some tips:
For Nuisance Related Issues (e.g. excessive smoke or odor, time of day of the burn, distance to property line)
- Know what's allowed and what's not, which can help when talking to your neighbor or submitting a complaint.
- If you feel comfortable doing so, talk to your neighbor about your concerns.
- If resolving the issue with your neighbor is infeasible, make a formal complaint online through Access Fort Collins or call the Nuisance Hotline at (970) 416-2200. An actionable complaint should include as many details as possible but at a minimum include the following, if known:
- The address of the source of smoke
- The time that you noticed the smoke
- Note if the smoke is from an outdoor fire pit or indoor fireplace
For Non-Emergency Health and Safety Related Issues (e.g. distance to combustible surface, type of materials being burned, size of fuel source)
- If you have a non-emergency health or safety concern about an active fire, call the non-emergency dispatch line at 970-221-6540.
- For emergencies, call 9-1-1.
- Did the City ban fire pits?
In 2017, City Council identified air quality impacts from outdoor burning as a priority issue to investigate in 2018, with new rules adopted in 2019. While many people enjoy outdoor wood fires, others, especially those with respiratory conditions such as asthma, can be negatively affected by the particle emissions in wood smoke which can cross property lines. Many communities in Colorado and elsewhere have different degrees of rules and regulations that limit wood smoke in residential neighborhoods.
- Can I have a BBQ grill or smoker?
The property line setback and curfew do not apply to BBQs and smokers, but air pollution nuisance rules do prohibit smoke that could be perceived as a public nuisance.
- What about cigarette and marijuana smoke?
Secondhand smoke in neighborhoods is not addressed by the current nuisance rules, but your HOA, property manager, or the City’s free Community Mediation Program may be able to help.
- Are there health effects of wood smoke?
The smoke from wood burning is made up of a complex mixture of gases and fine particles. The biggest health threat from smoke is from the fine particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they may cause eye irritation, runny nose and headaches. Breathing these small particles can also cause asthma attacks, aggravate heart and lung disease, and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses. Learn more about health risks related to wood smoke through the Environmental Protection Agency Burn Wise program.
- Are there less smoky alternatives to burning wood?
Gas burning fire pits and appliances, when operated properly, should not emit significant amounts of smoke or odor.