To: Head of Fire Departments
From: Stephen D. Coan, State Fire Marshal
Date: August 28, 2002
Re: Outdoor Fireplaces

In response to recent inquires regarding the regulation of outdoor fireplaces (chimineas), the legal department offers the following information:

Open air fires are generally regulated pursuant to M.G.L. c.48 s.13 which states in pertinent part "No person shall set, maintain or increase a fire in the open air…except by permission…granted by the Forest Warden or Chief of the Fire Department, or Fire Commissioner " There is a statutory exception for outdoor cooking. However, the exception is limited to persons eighteen years of age or older, who may, without a permit, set maintain or increase a reasonable fire for the purpose of cooking, upon sandy or gravelly land free from…. vegetation or upon sandy or rocky beaches boarding on tidewater, if the fire is enclosed within rocks, metal or other non flammable material…"

A strict reading of the statute therefore indicates that the exception, is for people over 18 to light cooking fires on sandy or gravelly land or sandy or rocky beaches that are contained in rocks, metal or nonflammable material. Every other outdoor fire must be permitted by the head of the fire department or the Fire Warden.

Chapter 48 s.13 provides that the State Forest Warden (Chief Tirrell) may make rules & regulations relating to the granting and revocation of these permits. I have talked to Chief Tirrell who informs the department that he is looking into the issue of regulating outdoor fireplaces in the near future.

In the interim, if a fire chief believes the outdoor fireplaces to be a condition likely to cause fire, they may issue appropriate orders pursuant to c. 148 s.5 to remedy this dangerous condition, notwithstanding the permit requirements of c. 48 s. 13.

Should you need further assistance with this issue, please feel free to contact the Code Compliance and Enforcement Unit or Technical Services at 978-567-3300 or in Western MA, 413-587-3181.