Home improvement and department stores are offering a hot new product this summer — the outdoor fireplace. It’s a semi-portable structure that will let you build a cheery fire within its screened walls on the patio or in the backyard. But before you haul one home, check with the local fire department…West Des Moines Deputy Fire Marshall Mark Adams says they don’t comply with open-burning laws. He says Polk County’s trying to control pollution, and wrote a stricter ordinance than the state open-burning rule. Adams says that means the ban on “outdoor fireplaces” includes Des Moines and its western suburbs, too. Sioux City Fire Department Lieutenant Chuck Hirsch says some folks who buy the outdoor fireplace hope to use it for double-duty, as a barbecue as well…and that might be acceptable. If they’re built to be cooked on and that’s what you’re using it for, then it’s allowed. West Des Moines fire spokesman Mark Adams says their local rule is written to address that. Their definition says it must have a grate to hold the charcoal and a “fixed grate” to hold the food being cooked — and Adams has seen some outdoor fireplaces and “chimeneas” that fit that description, though you’d have to be using it for cooking, to be legal. The devices can be elaborate cast-iron structures, “patio hearth” or “fire kettle” and some resemble a large barbecue grill with a screened wall around the fire. Could you take one to the farmstead or fishing cabin? Brian Button in the DNR’s air quality division says the best idea is to get some information before you buy. Button says state rules allow people to have “recreational,” ceremonial and cooking fires, though cities can pass ordinances that are more stringent so folks should check with local government officials to see what rules there are in their town. The outdoor fireplaces sell from 70 dollars to over 100 dollars.
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