Fire Prevention Week: Burning Permit Requirements in Minnesota and Wisconsin

Ryan Juntti
Updated: October 08, 2019 09:37 AM

It is fire prevention week and from now through Friday, WDIO will be sharing important stories to help you and your family avoid tragedy.


On Monday, the focus was talking about burning permits for campfires. In Minnesota, the size of the fire is the deciding factor whereas in Wisconsin it's the intent.    

As the weather begins to turn, one of the popular activities this time of year is to gather around the campfire, and while they are enjoyable, officials want to make sure you are burning responsibly.

"I think people need to abide by the rules. If you're not paying attention to the rules then we're going to ask you to put your fires out," said Duluth Fire Department Deputy Fire Marshal Jonathan Otis. 

In Minnesota any fire that is larger than 3 feet by 3 feet needs to have a burning permit. Any fire larger than 20 feet by 20 feet needs a variance permit. In Wisconsin, you only need a burn permit if the intent for the fire is to eliminate debris. Small fires for cooking or warming purposes do not require a permit in Wisconsin.

In both states, you are only allowed to burn clean wood such as branches and brush. If you want to burn lumber it has to untreated.

"There's a lot of nasty chemicals that come out of things that you're not supposed to burn. Treated woods have a lot of nasty chemicals in them. Some of them have arsenic in them and it remains after the burn is done," said MN DNR Cloquet Forestry Area Assistant Area Supervisor Bob Slater.

The City of Duluth also has regulations for campfires that say they cannot be within 25 feet of a structure, manufactured fire pits need to be 10 feet away from all structures, and the fire must be constantly attended until it is extinguished.

These rules are from the Minnesota State Fire Code, so other cities would abide by the same rules if they've adopted that code.

If either the state or city rules are violated, the offender could face a citation. This includes if a fire gets out of control.

"You might still be on the hook for suppression costs, but it's better than burning your neighbor's house down," said Slater.

Slater also says to pay attention to wind direction when burning knowing that high winds can lead to sparks flying, which can then spread to a larger fire.


Ryan Juntti

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