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Do I Need a Permit to Use My Fire Pit?

fire pit

Photo: Kev from Pixabay

By Zendelle Bouchard

The short answer to whether fires in fire pits require a burn permit is “maybe.” Maine residents and visitors need to be aware of a new law passed by the state in 2023 regarding recreational fires, including the use of fire pits, outdoor fireplaces and campfires for cooking, personal warmth, light, ceremonial or aesthetic purposes.

If you want to have an open fire of three feet or more in diameter on your property, or with flames at least three feet high, you need a burn permit. The permits are free and there are two ways to get one: in person at either of the Sanford fire stations, or online from the state . or

Permits are only issued when the fire danger is rated “low” or “moderate.” The daily fire danger is updated by 9 am each day at this website. When the fire danger is rated at “high” or above, the Maine Forest Service and National Weather Service will declare a Red Flag Warning, and no burn permits will be issued that day.

A permit is not required for recreational fires less than three feet in diameter, with flames less than three feet high. Most free-standing metal fire pits like the kind you can purchase at our local stores would not require a permit as long as you keep the flame height under three feet. However, it is important to check the fire danger page before starting any fire, because if a Red Flag Warning has been declared, fires of any size are not allowed, including charcoal grills. One exception to this rule is for a campground that is licensed and has an approved fire safety plan in place prior to the Red Flag Warning; then small recreational campfires are allowed.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If your fire requires a burn permit, you need a new one each day you want to burn.
  • Fires must be contained within a metal, masonry, or stone fireplace, pit or ring.
  • Burning brush is not considered a recreational use; these fires always require a permit.
  • The Sanford Fire Department responds to more than 4,000 calls a year and there will be times when no one is available at the station to help you with a permit. The online system is always available.
  • Paper or cardboard may be burned as kindling only. Burning trash is illegal in Maine.
  • If you are camping or recreating on someone else’s property, you need permission from the landowner, who will need to get the burn permit before you kindle a fire or use a grill burning charcoal or wood.
  • Gas grills do not require a permit and may be used even if a Red Flag Warning has been issued.
  • Make sure to keep outdoor fire pits, charcoal grills and fireplaces at least 10 feet away from your home or anything else that might burn.
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