Can I use an outdoor fireplace during a fire ban?
Fire and Emergency New Zealand enforces bans and restrictions on lighting fires around the country. The problem is, these rules constantly change based on weather patterns, local geography, and the surrounding environment.
To help you determine if you need a fire permit at the time of lighting your fire, there is an interactive tool called Check It’s Alright To Light. By answering three questions, you can find out which fire season you are currently in and what your next steps should be.
In this blog, we explain how the online tool works, the fire restrictions you need to know, and the rules that may prevent you from lighting a fire on your property.
Check it’s alright to light
Fire Emergency New Zealand has a simple 3-step tool to indicate whether it is safe to light a fire in your area. If you meet certain criteria, there is a high chance that you can light a fire, even when your area is subject to a prohibited fire ban. The tool will ask you three questions, as follows:
1. What type of fire are you lighting?
Select the option that applies to your planned fire. At Trendz Outdoors, our outdoor fireplaces and pizza ovens fit into the Pizza ovens and Chiminea category. Our fire pits fit into the Fire Pits and Braziers category.
- Cultural cooking fires
- Pizza ovens and chiminea
- Fire pits and braziers
- Gas BBQs and gas heater
- Charcoal BBQs and grills
- Fire for land management
2. Where will your fire be lit?
Fire restrictions are determined by your geographic location, factoring in the surrounding environment, climatic zones, and topographical boundaries. The online tool will ask you to select your location on the map or search for the address.
3. When will your fire be lit?
The online tool draws from your local weather forecast, with accurate data for the next five days. It will ask you to select the day you plan to light your fire.
When your answers to the above questions have been processed, the tool will show whether you are allowed to light your fire. The results will also show your location’s current fire danger rating and fire season status.
Fire danger rating
Powered by NIWA, the fire danger ratings provide up-to-date weather observations and forecasts. These conditions determine how a fire could behave and if it could pose a serious threat. The ratings are divided into five categories:
1. Low fire danger rating
Under these conditions, fires are easy to control. Wildfires are unlikely and generally do not spread much further than the original ignition source.
2. Moderate fire danger rating
Under these conditions, fire is relatively easy to control. As long as the fire is attended to quickly, it is not likely to become serious.
3. High fire danger rating
Fires in these conditions start easily and can become increasingly difficult to control. The longer the fire is left, the harder it is to manage.
4. Very high fire danger rating
Under these conditions, fires will start easily, spread rapidly, and burn intensely immediately after ignition. They can be difficult to control and will often become much larger and longer-lasting fires.
5. Extreme fire danger rating
Under these conditions, fires will quickly become uncontrollable, unpredictable, and rapid. They are difficult to stop, can become dangerous, and can last for several days.
Fire seasons New Zealand
In addition to the standard fire safety guidelines, council bylaws, and regional council requirements, you need to check the current fire season in your geographic area. For general fires such as recreational fires, BBQs, and domestic fires, the seasons include open, restricted, and prohibited:
Open fire season
In an open fire season, fires may be lit in the open air without restriction.
Restricted fire season
In a restricted fire season, a fire permit is required for most fire types. There may also be specific conditions to follow in your location.
Prohibited fire season
In a prohibited fire season, all open-air fires are banned and existing fire permits are suspended. However, fire permits may be granted in exceptional circumstances.
New rules for permanent Outdoor Fires and Pizza Ovens.
The good news is that there are now new rules available that allow the use of permanent outdoor fireplaces all year round. This means your Trendz fire can be used in a prohibited season if the below regulations are met:
- The fire must have a non-combustible hearth or base that extends a minimum of 500mm on either side of the left and right edges, and a minimum of 1 metre from the front edge of the firebox. This helps to stop burning matter from falling off the firebox onto combustible materials.
- Smoke vents and chimneys must have a purpose-built manufactured cap or a maximum of 5mm steel mesh.
- Firewood storage must be in areas not affected by heat from the fire and clear of any possible hot ash or ember-affected areas.
- You must have a suitable way to extinguish the fire within 5 metres.
- You must supervise the fire while it's burning or have a solid or mesh screen to prevent burning material from escaping.
- Fireplaces with external construction made of steel must be at least 1 metre clear of any part of a building, hedge, shelter belt, or any combustible material.
All the Trendz fireplace models are able to meet all the above requirements. This means you no longer need a fire permit to light your fire in a prohibited fire season.
For our range of outdoor fireplaces, pizza ovens, and fire pits, the following safety restrictions are applied:
Fire pits and braziers
A fire pit is made with stone, brick, or metal, and is either dug into the ground or on an upright stand. A brazier is a portable container for hot coals and can be upright or hanging. Safety guidelines for these types of fires are as follows:
- Must be less than one square metre in size and positioned on a stable, level, non-flammable surface, such as gravel, concrete, or a metal tray.
- Must not be lit within 3 metres of a building, hedge, or anything else that could catch fire.
- Where hot embers can escape, there must be a non-combustible base/tray that will contain these to prevent any risk of fire escaping.
- Have a suitable way to extinguish it within 5 metres.
- Supervise the fire at all times.
If you can’t meet the above conditions, you’ll need to apply for a fire permit.
How to put out a fire
Always stay with your fire until it has burned out completely. Close the door or cover the opening with a mesh screen. When the ashes and embers are cool, put them in a metal container and cover them with water. Give it a thorough stir and check they are cold before disposing of them.
Safety for outdoor fires
Before installing an outdoor fireplace or pizza oven, we recommend checking it meets all Building Code requirements. It also pays to talk to your supplier and choose a design that meets the cooking grill exemption criteria. If you’ve used the 3-step tool and it is safe to light your fire, you still need to follow the safety requirements and take sensible precautions.
Having handled thousands of fireplace deliveries across the country, the Trendz team knows the rules and installation requirements inside and out. If you have any questions or are unsure about your options, we’re more than happy to help.