What Can I Burn and When? Home Fire Pits, Grilling, and Yard Waste Burning Safety Regulations in Cape Girardeau


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Whether you’re burning yard waste as a chore, or relaxing with friends around a little fire, there are three safety rules you need to follow:

  1. Never leave a fire unattended. It is unsafe and illegal.
  2. Always have a fire extinguisher or water source like a hose nearby in case the fire starts to spread.
  3. Know if it is safe to burn. If conditions are windy and dry, the Cape Girardeau Fire Department will declare it a “No Burn Day” – check our website or call 573-339-6330.

Rules for outdoor burning in Cape Girardeau differ, depending on your type of residence and why you are burning.

Recreational and Cooking Fires (Grilling, Fire Pits)

FirePitMost residences can have a small fire day or night to use for cooking or recreational purposes as long as the fire is contained in a suitable fireplace or fire container, like a fire pit.

In multi-family dwellings like apartments and duplexes, the fire must be 15 feet or more away from buildings and other structures.

If not contained, a fire less than 3 feet wide and 2 feet high can be placed 25 feet from structures. Larger fires must be 50 feet from structures and cannot exceed 5 cubic feet.

Burning Yard Waste on Your Property

  • Open burning is permitted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on “ok to burn” days. Please extinguish all fires by 5 p.m.
  • Keep a rake and water hose close while burning, and do not leave fires unattended until extinguished.
  • Burn piles bigger than 10 ft. x 10 ft. x 5 ft. will require a free permit from the Fire Department. Burning yard waste is acceptable. Unacceptable substances to burn are listed in the next section of this blog. Ceremonial fires must be no larger than 5 ft. x 5 ft. x 5 ft.

Additional Information & Unacceptable Burning 

  • Do not burn anything on the paved portion of your street, including leaves.
  • No burning on excessively windy or dry days; check if it’s a “no burn day” before burning.
  • Do not burn any commercial building materials or non-vegetative waste (plastic, tires, styrofoam, petroleum-based products, treated wood, and other refuse).
  • Land clearing operations require a Missouri Department of Natural Resources permit in addition to a Fire Department permit.

What constitutes a “No Burn” day?

The Fire Chief or their designee will decide when it’s an “ok to burn” or “no burn” day. If it’s a “no burn” day, all outdoor burning is prohibited, except cooking fires or others specifically permitted by the Chief/designee. Things that can happen that restrict burning include:

  • Outdoor conditions that prevent smoke from rising freely,
  • if it’s been excessively dry outside, and/or
  • if it’s windy outside (sustained winds of 15 miles per hour; wind gusts more than 25 miles per hour).

Additional Information

Open Burning Regulations
Outdoor Burning Regulations
Relevant City Ordinances
Relevant State Regulations
International Fire Code

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