Recreational Fires - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

I want to have a campfire in my backyard. Is that allowed?

Recreational fires are allowed. Depending on the kind of fire you want to have, a permit may be required.

When do I need a permit?

You will need a permit if you are having a bonfire or recreational fire that is on the ground, not contained in an acceptable fire pit or fire place.

What types of fires don’t need a permit?

If you are grilling or cooking food for non-commercial purposes, and the fire is the appropriate size for what you are cooking, you will not need a permit.

Recreational fires in a fire pit or outdoor fireplace do not require permits if they fall within the size requirements. Fires can be no larger than 3 ft (90 cm) wide by 3 ft long by 3 ft tall.

Any other kind or size of recreational fire will need a permit.

How do I get a permit?

Permit application forms are available online, or we can fax or mail one to you.  Call (502) 574-6000 and ask for the Compliance Section. Tell them you'd like a burn permit.

What are the requirements for a burn permit?

The person signing the application is responsible for conducting, controlling and extinguishing the recreational fire. A burn permit is valid only for the address it was issued for. The applicant must extinguish their fire if it causes an undue nuisance to neighboring residents or businesses. A complete list of ALL the requirements is on your burn permit application.

Does it cost money?

No. APCD supplies burn permits to you free of charge.

What is an approved fire pit?

A fire pit is a device built or manufactured for small recreational fires. A portable, above ground fire pit should be commercially manufactured and should be assembled and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A permanently constructed fire pit or fire place must be constructed or completely lined with a non-combustible material such as brick, rock, concrete, or heavy gauge metal.

Most commercially manufactured ones will be acceptable. Constructed fire pits may not be acceptable; check with APCD Compliance Officers when in doubt.

What if I’ve already built a fire pit?  Will it be approved?

Not necessarily. Fire pits must consist of non-combustible materials. They must be of a size that a fire no larger than 3ft tall by 3 ft wide by 3 ft long can be burned at any one time. If it can’t be approved, you still may be able to use it for burning recreational fires with a permit. Check with APCD when in doubt.

What can I burn?

Only clean, dry firewood is allowed for any recreational fire.

Burning of garbage or trash, plastic, rubber, grass or tree trimmings, brush, painted or treated wood or lumber, or any kind of construction or demolition debris is strictly prohibited.

When can I burn?

If you are using an approved fire pit or fireplace you can burn almost any time you want. If the fire is not contained in an approved fire pit, you may only burn when noted on your approved permit. The exception to this is when the wind is blowing at 15 mph or higher, or if there is an Air Quality Alert in effect, or some type of burn ban has been put into effect. These events will be noted on the APCD web site, or you may call for more information (502) 574-6000.

What’s a chimenea?

A chimenea is a device, usually made of some type of clay or ceramic material, designed for small fires. These small fireplaces usually have a short chimney of some kind.

Why can I have a fire pit and not a barrel?

A fire pit is designed to hold small recreational fires. This limits the amount, size, and type of materials that can be burned. Most people who use fire pits use them for recreational purposes and use clean dry firewood. Barrels are used largely to dispose of materials not approved by APCD, and will cause large amounts of smoke when used, due to lack of ventilation. Barrels promote disposal of construction materials, trash and yard waste, all prohibited under Air Pollution’s regulations

I want to have a pig roast.  Nothing in your regulation says if I can or can’t.

The regulations allow you to have a cooking fire that is sufficient for the amount of food you are cooking. Therefore, a fire that is large enough to cook a pig is allowed, for cooking purposes only.

I want to clean up my yard.  Is it ok to burn those branches and trees?

NO. Yard waste or debris is prohibited. You may use cut dry wood, and you may use kindling for starting a fire. Having a fire with the purpose of disposing of yard waste is not allowed.

What if my neighbor is burning stuff in their yard?

You can report illegal burn activities to Air Pollution Control District, or you can call the fire department if you feel there is imminent danger. You can report a nuisance to APCD for further investigation.

What about homeless people?  I see they have fires sometimes.

Anyone who is out in the weather and needs shelter or warmth should be referred to one of the numerous shelters in Louisville Metro’s area. You can call Metro Call at 311 to report someone who might need assistance.

Can we have a small fire to keep warm while we’re working outside?

No. Only recreational fires are allowed, and only those in an approved fire pit or outdoor fireplace don’t need a permit. Workers outside should use approved heaters for that purpose.