Open Burning  & Fire Pits in the city of Portsmouth

Please read the following to learn more about open burning, recreational fires, and portable fireplaces in the City of Portsmouth

 Sec. 13-7 – burning operations

  1. The burning of wrecked or discarded vehicles or any part thereof, junk, any waste materials, rubbish, debris, dead or dying trees or limbs, leaves or other natural growth is prohibited. 
  2. Any person convicted of any such violation shall be guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor

While recreational fires (small campfires not bon fires) are legal in Portsmouth, there are still specific requirements for these. (Outlined in the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code)

* If someone complains about the smoke or the activity is being conducted unsafely, the fire shall be extinguished.  This applies to legal recreational fires; both fixed and portable outdoor fireplaces; and even to outdoor cooking (e.g. grills, barbecue pits and smokers).    

* The fire code official is authorized to order the extinguishment of open burning that created or adds to a hazardous or objectionable situation.
* Recreational fires, which are like small campfires. They are NOT bonfires. The pile of wood/logs for burning shall be 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height. Due to the 25 feet distance from ANY structure (e.g., house, shed, garage) or ANY combustible material (e.g. bushes, trees, combustible fences or decks, vehicles) most people will NOT be able to have this type of fire on their property. Like a campfire, we would recommend bricks or rocks to contain the fire or a slightly dugout area in the ground.

* Commercial portable outdoor fireplaces shall be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and shall not be operated within 15 feet of any structure or combustible material. 

* Open burning; bonfires, recreational fires and portable fireplaces are required to be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished. A minimum of one portable fire extinguisher complying  with section 906 with a minimum 4-A rating or other approved on-site fire extinguisher equipment, such as dirt, sand, water barrel, garden hose, or water truck, shall be available for immediate utilization. 

 So to sum up:

  1. If someone complains about the smoke, it must be extinguished. 
  2. The pile of wood/logs being burned shall be 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height
  3. The burning pile must be 25 feet from combustible materials
  4. All fires must be attended until the fire is fully extinguished.  A form of extinguishment must be available at all time for immediate utilization. 


*Please contact the Fire Marshal’s Office at (757) 393-8765 during normal business hours if you have any questions.