Outdoor fires are banned in Denver: Watch out for smoking deals on chimeneas

This first spring weekend, as you plan yard projects, skip the outdoor fireplace: Its use is banned in Denver. And that ban extends to those hot-hot fire pits and chimineas that stores will be pushing -- without telling you that firing one up can get you a visit from the Denver Fire Department.

That's what happened to one surprised set of homeowners in Platt Park, who recently learned from the full battalion of firefighters who burst into their back yard that their chiminea violated city ordinances. While grills and smokers are legal in Denver (as long as they have a cover, and are used solely to cook food), other outdoor fires are not.

Property owners can get special permits -- that's what restaurants with fire pits do -- but they are very rare. Because not only must the fire department sign off on an outdoor fire, but so must the Denver Department of Environmental Health. And while the fire department is primarily concerned with safety, DEH is worried about health issues from second-hand wood smoke as well as air quality, and rarely approves those permits.

"DEH does not grant permits for open burning except in very narrow circumstances," says the department's Gary Lasswell. For example, "when the proposed burn has a purpose other than aesthetic, such as a legitimate and verifiable religious or cultural purpose." A sweat lodge for a native American ceremony, in other words.

Last year, DEH issued exactly eight permits -- three for school/community special events, two for vegetation control, two for fire training, and one for religious/cultural reasons.

Still want to go for a permit? Here's how to do it, according to Lasswell:

The process for receiving a permit involves submitting a written request that details the nature of the open burn request, being subject to an inspection of the proposed location for the open burn, and, if a permit from DEH is granted, requesting and obtaining a separate safety permit from the Denver Fire Department; as well as being subject to additional limitations prescribed by DEH such as when the burn can occur; the duration of the burn; monitoring the burn throughout its duration; notifying surrounding property owners prior to the burn; and notifying DEH and the Fire Department at the time of the burn.

Sounds easier to just get a sweater to ward off the chill.

No outdoor fires? Maybe that's why Denver is the "coolest" city in the country. Find out why in our slide show "15 Reasons Denver is the Coolest City."

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