Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Chimeneas can't be lit in Denver -- unless they're being used as a barbecue

All those outdoor fireplaces at the big-box stores look like they'd make great holiday gifts -- but not for Denver residents. Because outdoor fires are banned here, unless they're used for cooking. One fire-loving Platt Park couple learned that last winter, when they were huddled around their backyard chiminea and suddenly found surprise visitors at the gate: the Denver Fire Department.

Some nosy neighbor had called in a complaint -- a common occurrence, according to the DFD.

And the firefighters told the couple what salespeople at Home Depot or Lowe's never will: Outdoor fires are not allowed in Denver. Not in fireplaces, not in fire pits, not in chimineas. Grills and smokers are okay, they learned, but only when used to cook food.

As the cold weather hit this fall, they found themselves missing their backyard fireplace -- and then discovered the solution in Santa Fe: a chiminea with a grill. So they hauled it back to Denver, set it up in the back yard, threw in a couple of pieces of pinon, and fired up. Sure enough, within ten minutes a firetruck pulled up: Someone had called in a complaint about a backyard fire. This time, though, the homeowners were ready: They showed the crew of firefighters the label that came with the contraption, showing that it was a "chiminea barbecue."

"Then remember to keep a marshmallow out here," one advised, then shouldered his gear and headed back out the gate.

Don't count on the nosy neighbor being invited over for s'mores.

From our archives: "Outdoor fires are banned in Denver: Watch out for smoking deals on chimeneas."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun