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Upper Gwynedd to Add Recreational Fires to Outdoor Burning Ordinance

Tony Di Domizio

Thursday, August 21, 2014 • 8:13pm

If you gathered your friends around a fire in your Upper Gwynedd Township backyard and cracked a few brews – you were breaking the law.

After all, what’s summer – or even autumn – without a nice fire pit to gather around?

Thus, with the popularity of outdoor fires and chimineas, Upper Gwynedd Township Manager Len Perrone, fire marshal Jeff Tomczak and zoning director Van Rieker are working on an outdoor burning ordinance amendment to allow recreational fire pits on properties.

Perrone informed the board of commissioners this week that they need to find a “common ground” on the ordinance.

“We’re seeing what we want to do to make sure the current outdoor burning ordinance isn’t out of sync with this,” Perrone said. “It’s something that wasn’t anticipated when we adopted the outdoor burning ordinance. It’s a work in progress.”

Tomczak said the only legal instance a resident can have an outdoor fire is for cooking.

“Currently, they are not permitted, as an outdoor burning ordinance was passed in 1993 that prohibits all outdoor burning with the exception of a few purposes,” Tomczak said after the meeting Tuesday.

Other exemptions include fire training, wildfire abatement and celebratory occasions.

Rieker said he is beginning to see outdoor fireplaces being drafted as part of patio plans on homes.

“Jeff (Tomczak) felt that, given the trends and the fact that some of these are built-in and some are portable, we needed to update the language and authorize, probably, a permitting process, just so people know what they are supposed to do,” Rieker said.  

The regulation, he recommended, should feature language on fire distances from homes, placement on property, and products not to be burned.

Tomczak said there is another issue – a built-in fireplace would be regulated under the building code versus a portable fireplace that is a fire code issue.

Perrone said the board can expect further action on the matter in another month.

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