Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Camp fires, bonfires and open burning....Exactly what ARE the rules??


GREAT question...and one that is asked often and certainly deserves some clarification.

I'll do my best to answer those questions...but you are always free to email me directly at spfdfireinspector@gmail.com.  I assure you that I will get back to you with a more complete answer.

First things first. The rules vary slightly by municipality, but here is a synopsis:

City of Sun Prairie:
Campfires and cooking fires are allowed without a permit.  Open burning is by permit only.  Open burning is only allowed under very specific circumstances and must be approved by the city administrator and fire chief (or designee). 
Link: City of Sun Prairie Open Burning Ordinance

Town of Bristol:
Campfires and cooking fires are allowed without a permit.  Open burning is by permit only. Please know your local ordinance.  Permits are as simple as calling in to the station. (608) 837-5066
Link: Town of Bristol Ordinances

Town of Burke:
Campfires and cooking fires are allowed without a permit.  Open burning is by permit only. Please know your local ordinance.  Permits are as simple as calling in to the station. (608) 837-5066

Town of Sun Prairie:
Campfires and cooking fires are allowed without a permit.  Open burning is by permit only. Please know your local ordinance.  Permits are as simple as calling in to the station. (608) 837-5066

Now, lets dig in to the meat of the question...

Campfires, or cooking fires 
(No Permit Required)

For a Campfire in a fire pit (manufactured or a fire ring in your back yard) NO PERMIT IS NECESSARY.

SPFD has no interest in stopping residents from enjoying a campfire. We simply ask that you use your fire pit safely, burn only clean/untreated firewood and be respectful of your neighbors.

If for some reason things get out of control or an accident happens, CALL 911 IMEDIATELY.

When a fire in a fire pit becomes a nuisance, dangerous, or clearly violates the intent of just a good old fashioned campfire, SPFD will be forced to respond and we will extinguish the fire.

We are tasked with the OVERALL good of the community, so if someone is misusing their fire pit, or abusing their privilege to have a campfire; we will respond appropriately.   He have to....its our responsibility.

Open Burning
(Permit Required)

For open burning that does not quality as a campfire or cooking fire; a permit is necessary. 

Controlled Burns Fall 2019 - City of Davenport

Really Simply put: Open burning is essentially MANGED burning that occurs on the ground, and is intended as a means of property maintenance OR debris removal.

Burn Permits are free...we simply ask that you call in so that we have an idea of what is happening when that very well meaning motorist with a cell phone calls 911, we can respond appropriately.

IF we know it is a permitted fire, we will still send people, but we might not come lights and sirens... which is MUCH safer for everyone on the road.

And finally, some safety tips for both campfires and permitted open burns:

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Everybody loves a BBQ, but please follow some simple rules to keep your friends and family safe!

Safe Grilling Information from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

(Some of the information below is borrowed directly from the NFPA website)

When the warmer weather hits, there’s nothing better than the smell of food on the grill.

Three out of five households own a gas grill, which translates to a lot of tasty meals. But it also means there’s an increased risk of home fires.
Each year an average of 8,900 home fires are caused by grilling, and close to half of all injuries involving grills are due to thermal burns. While nearly half of the people who grill do it year-round, July is the peak month for grill fires followed by May, June and August.

Grilling by the numbers
  • In 2014, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills
  • July is the peak month for grill fires (17%), including both structure, outdoor or unclassified fires, followed by May, June and August
  • A failure to clean the grill was the leading factor contributing to the fire in one –fifth of all grill structure fires (19%). In 17%, something that could catch fire was too close to the grill
  • Leaks or breaks were the factor in 11% of grill structure fires and 23% of outside and unclassified grill fires
  • Gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires overall than their charcoal counterparts

Safety tips

  • Position the grill well away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Place the grill a safe distance from lawn games, play areas and foot traffic.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area: declare a three-foot "safe zone" around the grill.
  • Put out several long-handled grilling tools to give the chef plenty of clearance from heat and flames when flipping burgers.
  • Periodically remove grease or fat buildup in trays below grill so it cannot be ignited by a hot grill.

Charcoal grills  

  • If you have a charcoal grill, purchase the proper starter fluid and store the can out of reach of children, and away from heat sources.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals or kindling have already been ignited.
  • Never use any flammable or combustible liquid other than charcoal starter fluid to get the fire going. 

Propane grills

  • If you have a propane grill, check the propane cylinder hose for leaks before using it for the first time each year. A light soap and water solution applied to the hose will quickly reveal escaping propane by releasing bubbles.
  • If you determined your grill has a gas leak by smell or the soapy bubble test and there is no flame:
    • Turn off the propane tank and grill.
    • If the leak stops, get the grill serviced by a professional before using it again.
    • If the leak does not stop, call the fire department.
  • If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not attempt to move the grill.
  • All propane cylinders manufactured after April 2002 must have overfill protection devices (OPD). OPDs shut off the flow of propane before capacity is reached, limiting the potential for release of propane gas if the cylinder heats up. OPDs are easily identified by their triangular-shaped hand wheel.
  • Use only equipment bearing the mark of an independent testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions on how to set up the grill and maintain it.
  • Never store propane cylinders in buildings or garages. If you store a gas grill inside during the winter, disconnect the cylinder and leave it outside.

A final word about cookouts: Propane and charcoal BBQ grills must only be used outdoors. If used indoors, or in any enclosed spaces, such as tents, they pose both a fire hazard and the risk of exposing occupants to toxic gases and potential asphyxiation.

Questions and answers about the Local Laws that govern gas/charcoal grills:


I live in an apartment building and my landlord tells me that I can’t have a grill on my deck.  Why?


Your landlord is just following the City of Sun Prairie Municipal Code and/or Wisconsin State Law.  Here is the simplified version:

·         CoSP Municipal Code 8.12.010 and Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services code 314 (Commonly known as SPS 314, which adopts model code: NFPA 1 2012 edition) states that gas and or charcoal grills may not be used or stored on wooden decks/patios above grade in multi-family housing (3 units or more).  To put that into common language, if you live in an apartment building or a condominium building that has 3 or more separate residences, and you live above “ground level”—you may NOT use or store your grill on your wooden deck/patio.

o    If you live on the ground floor of an apartment/condo and have a concrete patio—you are allowed by law to store and use your grill safely on that deck.  SPVFD requires that the grill be moved a safe distance (a minimum of 10ft) from the structure before use.

o    If you live in an apartment/condo that has a wooden deck/patio that is above grade, you may store your grill at ground level (check with your landlord/condo association for exact information on where to store the grill outside of the structure)—and you may use that grill once it has been moved a minimum of 10 feet from the structure.

o    Gas/charcoal grills may not be stored or used indoors in the aforementioned property types.

o    According to code, electric grills are acceptable.  This includes wood decks/patios that are above grade in all occupancy types  

o    Pellet grills by definition, use combustion to heat the pellets and therefore follow the same rules as both LP and Charcoal Grills 


The above information speaks very specifically about buildings with 3 or more dwelling units.  Not much is said about 1 and 2 family homes.  What gives?


Sun Prairie Municipal Code and SPS14 do not qualify 1 and 2 family homes as “inspectable” properties; therefore the commercial fire code does not apply.  In simple terms, there aren’t any current laws governing grill storage and use in these properties.  With that in mind, Sun Prairie Fire Department strongly suggests for your safety and your family’s safety, that all manufacturer guidelines and safety tips regarding grill use and storage are followed.


Where do I find more information on safe grilling techniques and safe food handling?


Listed below are some links to follow:

www.cpsc.org  For recall information                 

www.nfpa.org National Fire Protection Assoc.


It almost seems like the fire department is against grilling.  Is it?


No, we are not against grilling.  As a matter of fact, most of our firefighters are very accomplished BBQ cooks and love nothing more than a good old fashioned steak off of the grill.  We just want you to be safe while using your grill, so that your barbeque or picnic isn’t ruined by an untimely accident.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sprinklers: By the numbers

Statistics don't lie.  They can be spun in ways that serve a purpose, but the numbers are always the numbers, no matter the spin. 

In the argument SUPPORTING sprinkler protection, the numbers are overwhelmingly in support of the facts:
Fire Sprinklers are incredibly efficient at saving both lives and property. 

Even the most proficient 'spin doctors' out there will have trouble making these numbers say something different.

It is our belief here at The Life Safety Manifesto that the general public, and even the legislators of this great state of Wisconsin are being mislead and misinformed about the effectiveness of sprinklers by private, "For Profit" (and very well funded) organizations.  

If they are successful, the effects of this misinformation and potential decisions made by our misinformed legislators will have long lasting, and potentially deadly effects on the lives of the people who visit, live in, or work in non-sprinkler protected structures.

Why would anyone fight against systems that would save lives and property? 

Profit.  That's why. 

These special interest groups are worried that their (already significant) profit margin on a building will be reduced too much by the additional cost of sprinklers. 

The truth of the matter: They believe that their bottom line is worth more than any of the lives that are put at risk when fire sprinklers are intentionally NOT installed

While it is true, It does cost a little extra money at the time of construction to install a sprinkler system; however that additional money is far from making the overall the cost of the structure prohibitive or too high for business's to sustain.

In fact, Contrary to what the special interests claim; the required installation of sprinkler systems does not prevent structures from being built, sold or occupied at a rate that is hard to keep up with.(Take a look around Sun Prairie...no shortage of new buildings going up...).

Getting back to the  numbers, click the below links to view a recent report from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on the effectiveness of sprinklers. 

PLEASE draw your own conclusions about whether or not sprinkler systems are worth every penny, and let your elected representatives know that THEY WORK FOR YOU.

NFPA Research: U.S. Experience with Sprinklers

Fact sheet - Sprinklers in Reported U.S. Fires during 2010 to 2014

Fact Sheet - Sprinklers in Reported U.S. Home Fires During 2010 to 2014

Friday, May 12, 2017

It's Severe Weather Season....Are you ready?

The following was "borrowed" from Ready Wisconsin

Listen, Act and Live!
May 22, 2011....one of the deadliest tornados in U.S. history strikes Joplin, Missouri directly killing 159 people and injuring over 1,000. The massive EF-5 with winds over 200 mph hit the city of more than 50,000. Despite the tornado warnings why there were so many deaths? A National Weather Service study on the Joplin tornado reveals important lessons learned:
  • A majority of residents did not immediately seek shelter when tornado warnings were issued.
  • People needed between two and nine risk signals to take action and seek shelter. For example, if they heard the sirens going off they would look in the sky, then go to a TV to get information and then call a friend, etc.
  • The time it took between the warning and the search for confirmation of risk cost lives.
Click Here to View Full Report: NWS Central Region Service Assessment Joplin, Missouri, Tornado – May 22, 2011
What can you do?
  • Listen: When severe weather is possible (Thunderstorm or Tornado Watch issued) pick a credible source of information and keep in touch with that source until the danger has past. One of the best tools is a NOAA Weather Radio (also know as an Emergency Weather Radio). Click here for more information on NOAA Weather Radios
  • Act: When you hear a tornado warning (tornado seen by spotters or detected on radar) seek the best shelter you can find immediately. Don’t waste time checking multiple sources of information. You may have only seconds to find a safe place. Click here for more information on best shelter
  • Live: Your chances of survival multiply. Hopefully the storm will pass with no damage. But don’t risk your life on a hope.

Here are some Severe Weather Fast Facts:
  • Wisconsin averages 23 tornadoes annually.
  • In 2013, 16 tornadoes touched down in Wisconsin including six tornadoes during the overnight hours of August 6-7. An EF 2 struck near New London in Waupaca and Outagamie counties injuring two people and caused millions of dollars in damage.
  • In 2014, 22 tornadoes were reported in Wisconsin by the National Weather Service. Eighteen of those tornadoes occurred in June. The strongest tornado in 2014 occurred on June 17 when an EF 3 tornado hit Verona in Dane County. At least 30 homes were damaged as well as the Country View Elementary School. The tornado traveled about a mile, had wind speeds of 136 to 165 mph and was on the ground for several minutes. An EF 2 touched down that same night in Platteville in Grant County. Several homes and businesses were damaged including the University of Wisconsin–Platteville.
  • In 2015, 17 tornadoes were reported in Wisconsin by the National Weather Service. All these tornadoes were relatively weak, ranking an EF-0 or EF-1.
  • In 2016, there were 16 tornado touchdowns in the state. All of the tornadoes were either an EF0 or EF1. However, it’s not a question of if we will have a violent storm, it’s a matter of when.
  • The peak tornado season in Wisconsin is April to August, but tornadoes can occur any time of year, like the January 7, 2008 storms near Kenosha.