Lavallette will rely upon state statutes to enforce penalties for potential safety issues related to the use of fire pits, if necessary, officials said. The decision comes after the council investigated the possibility of creating its own local ordinance that would have led to additional regulations of fire pits, which have gained popularity in recent years but have also caused concern about smoke pollution and flying embers.
Indeed, Lavallette would have been one of just a few Shore towns to place restrictions on the use of fire pits had they decided to do so.
“No one [locally] has an ordinance except for Manasquan,” said Councilwoman Joanne Filippone. “If you go up to North Jersey, there are many communities that have ordinances. But my conclusion is that we don’t really need an ordinance. We have a state law regarding fire pits, open flames and fireworks.”
Filippone said she has already engaged with Borough Administrator Robert Brice as well as the police and fire departments in town to produce a safety card that will be handed to residents and visitors through real estate agents. The card will include a quick overview of the state’s laws regarding the use of fire pits, how far they must be from homes and similar issues. The cards will also include the state’s current fireworks regulations, which have changed in recent years.
“The police department, any fire official and code enforcement all have the legal authority to shut down a person’s fire pit if there is a complaint,” said Filippone, adding that the state’s regulations require a screen on top of fire pits and do not permit the operation of a fire pit if the wind is carrying smoke into a neighbor’s home.
The state also spells out the proper manner of setting up a fire pit.
“If you’re building one, you have to go through the construction department and get permits,” Filippone said. “If you’re buying one, you have to go by the state fire code.”
Issues with fire pits have grown in recent years as they have become more popular. In Lavallette, most of the concern has been on the oceanfront, where embers carried by the wind have the potential to spark a blaze at a neighboring property or borough infrastructure. The bulk of the complaints, however, have not been produced by homeowners, but rather those rent homes in town – hence, the borough’s preference to provide the safety cards to real estate agents who handle weekly rentals.
“The police department did a draft and I made some changes,” said Brice. “They’re finishing it up and we’ll have it soon.”
Officials agreed that the state’s regulations on fire pits and open flames are sufficient and no local ordinance is needed.
“The law that is already in place allows the fire officials and police department to handle it, and I think that’s better than creating another rule,” said Councilman James Borowski.