Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

An open fire in the garden is not only popular at Easter. If you want to warm yourself by the flames, the law requires you to observe a few points.

Open garden fire: legal position

For many, open garden fires like a self-built campfire are a unique experience that is gladly shared with friends and family. Unfortunately, according to the Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG), no open fires are permitted in the garden without permission. In addition, there are the immission control laws of the individual federal states. You must therefore first obtain permission from your municipality or city before lighting an open garden fire with any of the following properties:

  • from 100 cm diameter
  • unpaved
  • in close proximity to neighbors or other buildings

Fines for lighting open fires without a permit can be quite steep. The individual federal states determine these themselves and fall under the title “making fire in violation of the ban”. Depending on the federal state, you have to pay fines of 25 to 5,000 euros. If there is a suspicion of arson caused by the open fire, the fine can increase to up to 50,000 euros. For this reason, never light an open fire without permission.

Open fire: alternatives

Since a classic campfire or other unpaved places are not allowed on your own property without permission, many people switch to an alternative. These are mostly fire pits that do not require a permit and you can set them up in the garden without any problems. Two variants can be mentioned here:

  • fire bowls
  • fire baskets

Why these can be used? These are so-called “plants that do not require approval”, which are used exclusively as a cozy or warming fire to generate heat. They may only be used for this purpose and not, for example, to burn waste from the garden. They can be used without a permit because they produce almost no smoke and enrich the air with an extremely small amount of airborne particles. So there is no danger to people and even the smell and possible flying sparks are kept within limits. When using fire bowls and baskets, you should nevertheless pay attention to the following points in order to avoid a possible risk of fire:

  • small gaps
  • maximum height: 100 cm
  • maximum diameter: 100 cm
  • level location
  • refractory location (e.g. sand, stone)
  • no flammable surfaces, plants or objects in the immediate vicinity
  • sufficient distance to neighbors
  • sufficient distance to public facilities

As with barbecuing, you should inform your neighbors a few days in advance if you want to use the fire baskets or bowls. In this way, they can adjust to it and no possible dispute situations arise. You should never use the fireplace if it has been very dry recently. In this case, a single spark could be enough to start a fire. If you use the open bowls or baskets, you should always have extinguishing material available in case the flame gets too high:

  • sand
  • water
  • fire blanket
  • fire extinguisher

Open fire in your own green oasis is not only available in the form of fire bowls or baskets. There are numerous alternatives, most notably torches and hurricane lanterns. You do not need a permit for either of them, as they are much smaller fire sources that do not use wood or similar fuel. To be used:

  • lamp oils
  • petroleum

They produce neither flying sparks nor heavy smoke pollution. After lighting, the oil will be consumed over time and the fire will go out. In this way, you can create a cozy "fire" that is easy to start and control, even in smaller gardens. As with other fire pits, torches and hurricane lanterns require a good footing and clearance from any flammable object or surface. Although no sparks can jump from these, safety is endangered by a possible high heat development. Likewise, you should never let it out of your sight, lest it suddenly become a hazard.

Tip: You can even use fire bowls and baskets for grilling. All you need is the right attachments.

Approved fuel

When choosing the fuel, you must also follow the information of the 1st BImSchV, which is listed in § 3 "Fuels". These explain exactly which fuel you can use to light your open fire in the green oasis at home. There are numerous options here, some of which are not really pleasant in the garden. For example, lignite does not really make for a pleasant fire because it also contains a lot of sulphur. The following fuels are more suitable:

  • Logs with or without bark (natural)
  • wood pellets (natural)
  • cones
  • brushwood

The moisture content of the fuel is very important. Make sure the wood, cones and sticks are completely dry. Contained moisture or even resins can adversely affect the burning process or cause sparks, which could affect the safety of nearby trees, shrubs or buildings. Other fuels are also listed, but you should only use the ones mentioned, as they make for a much more pleasant open fire.

Notice: You should never reach for classic fire accelerators such as alcohol or petrol to ignite an open flame in the garden. Not only are these prohibited by law, you are endangering yourself due to the high risk of explosion.

Burning garden waste allowed?

Many gardeners wonder if garden waste can be burned on open fires. Unfortunately we have to disappoint you in this case. Open burning of waste is not permitted anywhere in Germany and can even be punished with a fine. These measures are regulated by the Waste Management Law in Germany. Gardeners used to switch to freely usable burning days, which are almost non-existent now that the law now has a permit that is only granted in exceptional cases. The decision is based on the respective case and it cannot be said in general what kind of case it has to be. If you receive a special permit from your municipality, there are a few points to consider:

  • time
  • season
  • maximum burn time
  • weather conditions

If these are not complied with, fines may be imposed despite approval. However, keep in mind that such a permit is extremely rare as there are plenty of other disposal methods available. The alternatives include, for example, the recycling of green waste via compost, which is welcomed by municipalities and cities.

Notice: The same regulations apply to the incineration of household waste, residual waste and other items. In contrast to classic garden waste, these can even develop toxic fumes, which can lead to even higher penalties depending on the federal state.

Special form of traditional fire

A special form of waste incineration is traditional fires, as they are known at Easter. These do not focus on the purpose of removing waste from the garden or household, but rather on preserving historical and church customs that have survived into modern times. While private traditional bonfires have become increasingly rare in recent years due to stricter legislation, they are still permitted. The prerequisite: approval from your municipality or notification from you to them. The different regulations of the individual federal states must be observed. Depending on your municipality, you may face one of the following obstacles:

  • Garden must be big enough
  • Neighbors must not be disturbed
  • there is no risk of fire
  • her garden is in a legally protected biotope
  • wild small animals are not endangered

Sometimes it is not even possible to register a traditional bonfire if it is a private event. The Higher Administrative Court for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster, for example, only allows clubs, religious communities or organizations to organize a traditional bonfire if the community has free access. If you have a traditional fire in mind, you should definitely clarify the situation with the responsible authority so that there is no fine.

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!