What Fire Pits Can You Have in St. Catharines, Ontario?

What Fire Pits Can You Have in St. Catharines, Ontario?

Creating a cozy outdoor space with a fire pit can transform your backyard into an inviting retreat for friends and family. However, if you live in St. Catharines, Ontario, it's crucial to understand the local bylaws and regulations regarding open-air fires.

This blog will explore the options available for backyard fire pits and provide a comprehensive guide on the rules and bylaws you need to follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Understanding Local Regulations

The City of St. Catharines has specific regulations governing the use of open-air fires to ensure the safety and well-being of all residents.

The Open Air Fires By-law prohibits any open-air burning that is not used for cooking food on residential property.

This includes fires set up in chimeneas, fire pits, small fire bowls, basic fireplaces, or masonry fireplaces outdoors, and fires used for burning yard waste.

The by-law aims to prevent nuisances and health concerns caused by smoke and to ensure that fires are conducted safely, with proper clearances from combustibles and structures.

Cooking Fires

While general open-air fires are restricted, cooking fires are permitted under certain conditions. Here are the key requirements for a cooking fire in St. Catharines:

  1. Purpose and Timing: The fire must be used exclusively for cooking purposes and is allowed between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m.

  2. Extinguishing Means: A suitable means of extinguishing the fire, such as a garden hose or fire extinguisher, must be readily available.

  3. Clearances: The fire must have no less than 3 meters (9.8 feet) of clearance from any structure, property line, balcony, tree, fence, roadway, overhead wires, or other combustible materials unless the appliance is listed by a Canadian listing agency for clearance of less than three meters.

  4. Supervision: The person who sets the fire must be in constant watch and control of the cooking fire and remain within 5 meters (16.4 feet) of the fire until it is completely extinguished.

  5. Size and Material: The cooking area or pit must not exceed 0.75 m² (2.46 feet by 2.46 feet) and 0.3 meters (0.98 feet) in height. Only charcoal and dry natural wood that has not been treated or painted can be burned. No building materials or altered wood products are allowed.

  6. Containment: The fire must be contained by a non-combustible barrier and equipped with a grill.

  7. Smoke Management: Smoke from the fire should not create a hazard or nuisance to anyone as determined by St. Catharines Fire Services.

  8. Ownership: The person setting or maintaining the fire must be the property owner or a lawful occupant.

  9. Extinguishment: The fire must be completely extinguished immediately after cooking is completed.

Applying for a Burn Permit

For specific scenarios such as agricultural fires, destroying infested trees, or operating a cookout or festival, you can apply for a Burn Permit. The permit process ensures that these activities are conducted safely and in compliance with local regulations.

Acceptable Appliances for Backyard Fires

If you prefer the ambiance of a fire without the restrictions of open-air burning, consider investing in propane or natural gas appliances. These appliances, when certified and used according to the manufacturer's instructions, comply with the Ontario Fire Code and the Open Air Fires By-law.

When shopping for backyard propane or natural gas heaters, fire pits, fireplaces, or barbecue appliances, look for certifications that indicate the item meets Canadian and Ontario standards. Certified appliances offer a safer and more convenient alternative to traditional wood-burning fire pits.

Backyard Fire Pit Options

Given the restrictions on open-air fires, here are some acceptable and practical options for enjoying a fire in your backyard in St. Catharines:

  1. Propane Fire Pits: Propane fire pits are a convenient and compliant option. They are easy to light, control, and extinguish. Plus, they produce less smoke and can be used even in areas with tighter clearance requirements.

  2. Natural Gas Fire Pits: If you have a natural gas line in your backyard, a natural gas fire pit is a great option. These fire pits provide a continuous fuel source and can be more cost-effective in the long run compared to propane.

  3. Electric Fireplaces: For those looking for an ambiance without any combustion, electric fireplaces offer a safe and smoke-free alternative. They can be used in covered patios and other areas where open flames are restricted.

  4. Barbecue Grills with Fire Pit Functionality: Some barbecue grills come with an option to function as a fire pit. These dual-purpose appliances are a practical choice for those who enjoy both grilling and sitting by the fire.

Safety Tips for Using Backyard Fire Appliances

Regardless of the type of fire appliance you choose, safety should always be a top priority.

Here are some general safety tips:

  • Read the Manual: Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for your fire appliance.
  • Clear Area: Ensure the area around the fire pit is clear of any combustible materials.
  • Supervise: Never leave a fire unattended. Always have someone responsible for monitoring the fire until it is completely extinguished.
  • Extinguish Properly: Have a fire extinguisher, garden hose, or bucket of water nearby to extinguish the fire if necessary.
  • Consider Neighbours: Be mindful of smoke and avoid using fire appliances during windy conditions to prevent smoke from disturbing your neighbours.


Understanding and complying with the rules and bylaws regarding backyard fire pits in St. Catharines is crucial for maintaining safety and harmony in your community.

By choosing certified appliances and following the guidelines, you can enjoy the warmth and ambiance of a backyard fire without the risk of fines or hazards.

Whether you're cooking a meal or simply enjoying a cozy evening outdoors, being informed and prepared ensures a pleasant and safe experience for everyone involved.

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