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Seaside Park May Consider Regulations on Backyard Fire Pits

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Seaside Park water tower. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Seaside Park water tower. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Members of the Seaside Park borough council on Thursday said they plan to look into an ordinance that could regulate fire pits, which have become popular in borough backyards in recent years.

On the table: whether residents can have them, where they can be placed on a property, what can be burned in them, and the fuel for burning. The discussion was prompted by a letter written to the mayor and council complaining about the safety of residential fire pits, Mayor John A. Peterson said. Councilman William Kraft said he shared concerns about wood-burning fire pits.

“Propane and natural gas still has the ambiance without the odor of the burning wood,” said Kraft. “People should be more mindful of their neighbors.”

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His concerns, specifically, surround the placement of fire pits. In the past, he said he has seen fire pits located close to buildings, sometimes burning commercial construction wood with flames shooting feet into the air.

Ultimately, regulations on fire pits will come down to a question of legality and how far the borough can go to regulate them.

“There are a number of municipalities that have regulations,” said Borough Attorney Steven Zabarsky. “Basically, most of the ordinances have to do with the size of the fire, the location of the fire, and whether there needs to be a cover on the fire.”

Surf City, located on Long Beach Island, has a robust such ordinance, Zabarsky said, and he would look there for guidance.

“Surf City has a pretty good one, so that might be a good start – it has to be clean wood or propane, so we can start from there,” he added.

Beyond legal considerations, council members will also have to decide the role the borough should have in regulating what a person does in his or her backyard.

“I think this is a topic that needs a lot of review,” said Council President Matthew DeMichele. “Location-wise, it really depends on where people are placing them. I think there should be something that we can do to keep people safe.”

Peterson suggested that an ordinance “at the very least” should mandate fires be 10 feet from the nearest structure. But there may not be complete agreement on the issue.

“The little fire pit tables people have, I think, are relatively harmless,” said Councilwoman Faith Liguori. “Obviously it’s a fire so people have to have common sense.”

Seaside Park will “weight the pros and cons from other municipalities,” Peterson said.

“Perhaps we could put this on the front burner, pardon the pun, as a future work session item,” he said.