Fire Code
Prevention & Outreach

Burn Permits

Do I need a burn permit to burn vegetation on my residential property?

Before performing any Open Burning in Currituck County learn North Carolina Open Burning regulations from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and North Carolina Forestry Service.

Residential Properties

No air quality permit is required for the open burning of leaves, logs, stumps, tree branches, or yard trimmings if the following conditions are met:

  1. The material burned originates on the premises of private residences and is burned on those premises.
  2. There are no public pickup services available.
  3. Non-vegetative materials, such as household garbage, lumber, or any other synthetic materials, are not burned.
  4. The burning is initiated no earlier than 8:00 a.m. and no additional combustible material is added to the fire between 6:00 P.M. on one day and 8:00 A.M. on the following day.
  5. The burning does not create a nuisance.
  6. Material is not burned when the North Carolina Forest Service has banned burning for that area.

The burning of logs or stumps of any size shall not be considered to create a nuisance for purposes of the application of the open burning air quality permitting exception described in this subsection.

NOTE: You can be fined up to $25,000 for illegal open burning in North Carolina

The state regulates open burning because it can cause serious health problems and pollute the air.  Only leaves, branches or other plant growth can be burned.

Illegal to Burn
  • Garbage, paper and cardboard
  • Tires and other rubber products
  • Building materials, including lumber, wire, plastics and synthetic materials
  • Asphalt shingles and heavy oils
  • Paints, household and agricultural chemicals

Open Burn permits may be obtained from the North Carolina Forestry Service.  The issuance of a burn permit does NOT relieve the permittee of responsibility for complying with all air pollution laws, regulations and ordinances, or damage caused to others. Good judgment and extreme caution should always be used.

Recreational Fire Rules
Currituck County Code of Ordinances

Section 9-11 – Burning at construction sites prohibited

No person shall burn unused materials at construction sites. This also includes materials produced from clearing lots. Those materials shall be removed offsite or chipped onsite, but not burned on site. This section only applies to those sites located at or near the Currituck beaches north of the Currituck County/Dare County line and south of the Virginia/North Carolina border.

A violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction, the violator shall be punished with imprisonment of not more than 30 days or a fine or not more than $500.00. (Ordinance of  11-7-22(2), part I)

Section 10-101 – Definitions

The following words, terms, and phrases, when used in this division, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

Bonfire means a large fire built in the open air, such as fires solely for recreational purposes or ceremonial occasions. (Ordinance of 12-19-94)

Section 10-104 – Bonfire not permitted

No person, other than a licensed commercial fisherman actively engaged in fishing, shall kindle, or maintain any bonfire or authorize any such fire to be kindled or maintained on the Currituck beaches north of the Currituck County/Dare County line and south of the Virginia/North Carolina border. (Ordinance of 12-19-94; Ordinance of 7-15-96)


Bonfire – An outdoor fire utilized for ceremonial purposes.

Recreational Fire – An outdoor fire burning material other than rubbish where the fuel is not contained in an incinerator, outdoor fireplace, portable outdoor fireplace, barbeque grill or barbeque pit and has a total fuel area of 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height for pleasure, religious, ceremonial, cooking, warmth, or similar purposes.

Portable Outdoor Fireplace – A portable, out-door, solid-fuel-burning fireplace that may be constructed of steel, concrete, clay, or other noncombustible material. A portable outdoor fireplace may be open in design or may be equipped with a small hearth opening and a short chimney or chimney opening in the top.

Fire Hazard – Anything or act that increases or may cause an increase of the hazard or menace of fire to a greater degree than the customarily recognized as normal by persons in the public service regularly engaged in preventing, suppressing, or extinguishing fire or that may obstruct, delay, hinder or interfere with the operations of the fire department or egress of occupants in the event of a fire.

Recreational Fires and Portable Outdoor Fireplaces

Extinguishment Authority –  Where open burning creates or adds to a hazardous situation, the fire code official is authorized to order the extinguishment of the open burning operation.

Location – The location for open burning shall be not less than 50 feet (15 240 mm) from any structure, and provisions shall be made to prevent the fire from spreading to within 50 feet (15 240 mm) of any structure.


  1.  Fires in approved containers that are not less than 15 feet (4572 millimeter (mm)) from a structure.
  2.  The minimum required distance from a structure shall be 25 feet (7620 mm) where the pile size is 3 feet (914 mm) or less in diameter and 2 feet (610mm) or less in height.

Bonfires – A bonfire shall not be conducted within 50 feet (15 240 millimeter (mm)) of a structure or combustible material unless the fire is contained in a barbecue pit. Conditions that could cause a fire to spread within 50 feet (15 240 mm) of a structure shall be eliminated prior to ignition.

Recreational Fires – Recreational fires shall not be conducted within 25 feet (7620 millimeter (mm)) of a structure or combustible material. Conditions that could cause a fire to spread within 25 feet (7620 mm) of a structure shall be eliminated prior to ignition.

Portable Outdoor Fireplaces – Portable outdoor fireplaces shall be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and shall not be operated within 15 feet (3048 mm) of a structure or combustible material.


Portable outdoor fireplaces used at one-and two-family dwellings.

Attendance – Open burning, bonfires, recreational fires, and use of portable outdoor fireplaces shall be constantly attended until the fire is extinguished. A minimum of one portable fire extinguisher complying with Section 906 with a minimum 4-A rating or other approved on-site fire-extinguishing equipment, such as dirt, sand, water barrel, garden hose or water truck, shall be available for immediate utilization.

Smoke Detectors

When it comes to fire safety in your home, fire extinguishers are valuable, but smoke detectors are essential.

The North Carolina State Residential Building Code requires all new one and two family dwelling units to have interconnected smoke alarms on each level and in each sleeping room and outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms. They should not be placed within 3 feet horizontally from a bathroom door opening to a bathroom that contains a bathtub or shower.

The National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA 72) has guidelines for installation requirements and manufacturer installation instructions follow these guidelines. The North Carolina State Residential Building Code also requires carbon monoxide alarm be placed outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms for homes that have an attached garage with an opening that communicates with the dwelling or fuel fire appliances.

Combination smoke alarms and carbon monoxide are acceptable to be used outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.

If you want the security of knowing your family is safe, you’ll need the peace of mind and protection a smoke alarm offers in the event of a fire.

Here are 10 interesting and important facts about smoke detectors so you can keep your family safe.
  • 1. There are different types of smoke alarms:

    There are 2 main types of smoke alarms:

    • Photoelectric smoke alarms: those that use photoelectric detection
    • Ionization smoke alarms: those that use an ionization for detection

    Ionization detectors are more common because they are generally mass produced and typically, it is an inexpensive unit, but the photoelectric detectors are fairly affordable as well.

    Ionization detectors are best at detecting flaming fires, while photoelectric alarms are usually more sensitive to smoldering fires. The best idea is to either have a combination of the two types of alarms or find one smoke detection device that utilizes both types of detection.

    Code requirements for alarm types near cooking appliances per the North Carolina State Residential Building Code:

    Ionization smoke alarms shall not be installed less than 20 feet (6096 mm) horizontally from a permanently installed cooking appliance.

    Ionization smoke alarms with an alarm-silencing switch shall not be installed less than 10 feet (3048 mm) horizontally from a permanently installed cooking appliance.

    Photoelectric smoke alarms shall not be installed less than 6 feet (1828 mm) horizontally from a permanently installed cooking appliance.


    Keep smoke alarms 3 feet from HVAC air supplies, returns and ceiling fan blades.

    These created drafts that air current could interfere with the operation of the alarm.

  • 2. You should test your smoke alarm often

    Smoke alarms should be tested at least once a month to ensure it is functioning properly.

    Most alarms have a test button. Simply hold the button for a few seconds and see if the unit’s alarm sounds. If you don’t hear it, or it is faint, it’s time to replace your batteries.

    Keep your family safe by remembering to check these life-saving devices regularly.

  • 3. You should change your batteries at least once a year

    If you don’t change your detector’s batteries, you’ll likely hear that annoying high-pitched periodic chirp until you do. While the sound is grating, it does an excellent job reminding you when the battery is low, and it is time for a fresh one.

    If you’re not sure whether or not the battery is dead, test it in a non-safety device.

    A good rule of thumb for battery replacement

    When in doubt, throw it out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. It never hurts to give your fire alarm a fresh new battery even if you aren’t sure if the last one is dead.

    When you replace the batteries, consider writing the date on the new battery with a permanent marker so when it dies, you can see how long it lasted and know approximately how long each battery will work in your particular alarm.

    Another popular way as a reminder is to change them every January 1st at the beginning of the New Year.

  • 4. You may need more smoke alarms than you currently have

    House fires can start anywhere and for the best protection,

    In older homes constructed before the building codes required smoke alarms it is a good idea to install a smoke detector in every bedroom and each hallway outside of sleeping areas.

    Every floor of your home should have a smoke detector.

    It is also a good idea to install carbon monoxide detectors outside of the sleeping rooms if you have fuel fired appliances or an attached garage.

  • 5. You may need to replace your smoke alarms

    Experts recommend you change your smoke alarms about every 10 years.

    When it comes to your family’s safety, you’ll want to make sure your equipment is functioning well and that you are using the latest technology to warn of fire danger.

  • 6. You should have interconnected smoke alarms

    If one alarm sounds, each unit in the home should also sound. If a fire broke out in the middle of the night on the main floor, you would want your family members sleeping in the basement to be alerted as soon as possible so they could quickly escape.

  • 7. It’s best to have a professional install your smoke alarms

    You don’t want to place your family’s well-being in the hands of just anyone. Get a trained professional to install your fire alarms correctly so you can rest assured they will function properly and alert your family in the event of a fire.

    Many local Volunteer Fire Departments have programs to assist home owners, contact your local Volunteer Fire Departments for more information.

    For more information contact one of Currituck County’s Fire Departments.

  • 8. Combination alarms are available

    Arguably even more dangerous than a fire is carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide gas is odorless and tasteless, yet extremely toxic, and therefore very dangerous.

    It is produced by vehicles and gas-powered furnaces and unsafe levels of it cause hundreds of deaths each year.

    If possible, look for a fire alarm that also includes a carbon monoxide detector.

  • 9. Some smoke alarms come with a monitoring team attached

    Avoid false alarms by looking for an alarm that automatically alerts a monitoring team when it sounds. This may come as part of a smart home security package with multiple products to protect your family.

    Having a little extra protection and instant professional help onboard never hurts.

  • 10. You should not paint your smoke alarm

    Most smoke alarms come with a warning printed directly on them that says “do not paint.”  Paint can restrict airflow and cause the alarm to have difficulty detecting a fire.