Open Fires / Burning

Ordinance Number 681
Open burning is regulated by Hampton Township Ordinance Number 681.

Many years ago Pittsburgh was known around the world as the "Smoky City" due to the extensive emissions from our mills and factories. The pollution was so bad that on some days you couldn't see from one end of the street to another. But right after Word War II, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County passed a number of ordinances to control air pollution, including restrictions on outdoor burning.

At one time open fires in Allegheny County were virtually abolished, but over the years there have been exceptions made to those restrictions at the county and municipal levels.

Restrictions & Regulations
Unfortunately, there is a great deal of confusion about what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to outdoor fires. To clarify the matter, Township Council has drafted a new ordinance (Number 681) regarding restrictions and regulations on open burning. Following are some of the key points regarding this ordinance:

General Prohibition
The new ordinance states that "No person, corporation, partnership, association, organization, or other group shall burn any materials of any kind in the Township, except as authorized by the Township ordinance, County ordinance, or by County permit."

What Type of Fires are Authorized

The ordinance authorizes the use of "small open fires" such as grills, outdoor barbeques, fireplaces or similar devices to cook food with charcoal, natural gas, or wood; or any other fire from which the properties of combustion are emitted directly into the air without first passing through a "structural chimney." An adult property owner may authorize and allow on his or her property small open fires solely for the purposes of:

  • Warmth of outdoor workers (only at temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Non-commercial preparation of food for human consumption, light, ornament, or recreation
Permitted Receptacles / Containers
For the warmth of outdoor work crews fires may be conducted in non-combustible containers no larger than a 55-gallon drum. All other small open fires authorized under this ordinance must be contained in a grill, barbeque, fireplace, stone perimeter, noncombustible fire ring, drum, or other similar non-combustible receptacle, container or device, or in a fire pit. Fire pits can be no larger than 4 feet in diameter and no less than 18 inches deep.

Permitted Locations
Grills, outdoor barbeques or fireplaces used strictly for cooking shall be a minimum of 5 feet from a house, structure, inhabited area, roadway, utility or property line. In all other cases, the fire shall be located a minimum of 10 feet from the nearest house, structure, inhabited area, roadway, property line, utility, trees or other combustible materials.

Permitted Materials
All open fires must use charcoal, natural gas, or other clean burning fuel such as dry and clean logs, twigs, or other wood products. Only smokeless fuels, or small kindling may be used to start a fire. Painted or chemically treated woods, plastics, cardboard boxes, paper, household wastes, toxic or noxious materials, cloth, leaves, green yard waste or other materials that tend to cause excessive emissions or excessive smoke may NOT be use to start or maintain a fire.

Maximum Size
In all cases, the fire must be completely contained within the perimeter of the authorized receptacle. In no case may the combustible material and flame be greater than 16 square feet in area or higher than 3 feet. Also, you may not allow or maintain a fire that creates excessive smoke, excessive odor, or malodorous emissions. Smoke and odors will be considered excessive if they are perceptible beyond the property line of the source of the fire.

Adult Supervision, Control & Extinguishment
Only an adult property owner or other adult authorized by the property owner may conduct a small open fire and will at all times be present to tend to the fire from ignition through extinguishment. In addition:

  • Adequate means to control and extinguish the fire must be readily available at all times during any burning
  • Suitable covering or means of disposal of ashes must be provided to prevent them from becoming air-borne

Police Authority
Any police officer or other duly authorized law enforcement officer of the Township of Hampton may, upon investigation, order that any fire be immediately extinguished, abated, diminished, or corrected (in his or her sole discretion) if, in the officer's sole judgment, the fire:

  • Contains prohibited materials or is using a prohibited containment device
  • Is emitting excessive smoke, excessive odor or malodorous emissions
  • Is emitting sparks or hot ashes that may pose a threat
  • Is in a prohibited location or size

Penalties for Violating the Ordinance
Any person, firm or corporation who shall violate any provision of the ordinance is subject to paying a fine of not more than $600, plus costs.

Please note that these highlights from the ordinance do not constitute the full text and every provision that it contains. If you have any questions regarding Hampton's new burning ordinance contact the Police Department at 412-486-0400.