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Old 07-15-2022, 08:17 AM   #1
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Charcoal grill vs burn bans

Hi Folks, are you allowed to use charcoal grills during burn bans?

I have a PK Grill and use lump charcoal. I start the coal inside the grill (I don't use a charcoal chimney) and always keep the lid closed so the coal is always sealed inside the grill. Lump charcoal never sparks.

Personally, I don't see this as a risky endeavor. But, how do forest rangers perceive this? Is it allowed? Portable gas campfires, coleman lanterns, etc pose as much risk (something combustible can be blown onto them, someone could accidentally knock one over, etc).

Anyone have any specific knowledge as to whether this is allowed/not allowed at Forest Service campgrounds, national or state parks, BLM land, etc during burn bans? I'm not currently planning on bringing a gas grill so this question is important to me.
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Old 07-15-2022, 08:26 AM   #2
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I can speak from a Colorado perspective, but I don’t know if it applies to other states. In Colorado, there are three levels of burn ban. In a Level 1 ban, you can have a campfire in a designated campfire ring and area. You can also use a charcoal grille. In a Level 2 ban, you can’t have a campfire or use a charcoal grille, but you can use a gas fire pit and you can use a gas grille. In a Level 3 ban, no fire of any kind is allowed.

This applies to residential property also. A few years ago, we went an entire summer without being able to use the Big Green Egg.
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Old 07-15-2022, 08:42 AM   #3
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About 6 weeks ago we went to South Llano River State Park. There was a burn ban but allowed charcoal fires in the fire rings. A few weeks ago we were there and they now disallow any type of charcoal fire. Maybe call Texas Parks and Wildlife or Texas A&M Forestry Service for an explanation. Good luck
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Old 07-15-2022, 09:02 AM   #4
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Pretty similar here in New Mexico. In a high-level ban, anything with a real flame or embers -- from campfires to charcoal grills and outdoor smoking and cigarette lighters -- are not permitted. An intermediate ban permits gas grills. Just too much at stake.
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I can speak from a Colorado perspective, but I don’t know if it applies to other states. In Colorado, there are three levels of burn ban. In a Level 1 ban, you can have a campfire in a designated campfire ring and area. You can also use a charcoal grille. In a Level 2 ban, you can’t have a campfire or use a charcoal grille, but you can use a gas fire pit and you can use a gas grille. In a Level 3 ban, no fire of any kind is allowed.

This applies to residential property also. A few years ago, we went an entire summer without being able to use the Big Green Egg.
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Old 07-15-2022, 09:38 AM   #5
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If I travel west on IH-10 I stop at South Llano, a great little park and it is always dry there. Charcoal will throw sparks when you stir it up and I would hate to see SL go up in smoke.
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Old 07-15-2022, 09:45 AM   #6
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Charcoal grill vs burn bans

I would start looking for answers to your question at the state and local level where your camping. Your asking a very important question, with significant personal and environmental consequence if erroneous or untimely information is received. We all live in different geographical areas and advice gotten may or may not be relevant. Explaining to law enforcement that ‘I read it on the web’ won’t likely help.
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Old 07-15-2022, 10:52 AM   #7
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In the Pacific NW (BC, Washington, Oregon), burn bans typically apply to any wood fires, including charcoal. Other campgrounds and parks sometimes have rules prohibiting all wood and charcoal burning. Propane BBQs, camp stoves and approved propane fire rings are usually OK.

For California, the situation gets more complicated, as burning is regulated by two sets of agencies: the local fire district, and the local air quality management district. Either agency can impose a ban on all wood burning (including charcoal). You should always check with the local agencies. Most campgrounds, especially the state parks, will post status updates on campground info web pages.

We always carry a propane grill and propane fire ring that we can plug into the LP port. They are a lot less messy, and it’s more convenient not to have to deal with purchasing firewood.
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Old 07-15-2022, 11:03 AM   #8
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Be Careful!

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I would start looking for answers to your question at the state and local level where your camping. Your asking a very important question, with significant personal and environmental consequence if erroneous or untimely information is received. We all live in different geographical areas and advice gotten may or may not be relevant. Explaining to law enforcement that ‘I read it on the web’ won’t likely help.
Very good advice here.

Do not take a chance...those who disregard the rules and cause a fire are often criminally prosecuted AND fined at high levels. [Not related to our Airstream] but here in the Sierra foothills my wife and son went for a swim on July 4th at a nearby river. Within their view upstream, they saw some campers in a picnic area let a campfire get out of control and the 4,500 acre Electra Road fire started (today is July 15th and it is 95% contained). Five persons in that group of campers were escorted by the Sherriff to jail that day...I would not wish to be in their shoes - legally or financially.
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Old 07-15-2022, 11:34 AM   #9
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Thanks for all of the replies. I will check local conditions and regulations at every campsite.

Looks like I also need to add a gas grill to my cargo list in order to expand the grilling options during some stages of burn bans.
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Old 07-15-2022, 11:53 AM   #10
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For a correct answer, call or email/PM the forest ranger of the area you will be in.
Then, get a gas grill like the Char Broil Grill To Go. It uses the Coleman 1lb canisters and cooks with infrared heat. It works great and is legal in almost all the NP and FS camp areas (including dispersed).
Also, California requires a burn permit even if your site has an open fire ring. You can get one online.
But ALWAYS, ALWAYS check with local rangers first.
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Old 07-15-2022, 12:09 PM   #11
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For a correct answer, call or email/PM the forest ranger of the area you will be in.
Then, get a gas grill like the Char Broil Grill To Go. It uses the Coleman 1lb canisters and cooks with infrared heat. It works great and is legal in almost all the NP and FS camp areas (including dispersed).
Also, California requires a burn permit even if your site has an open fire ring. You can get one online.
But ALWAYS, ALWAYS check with local rangers first.

Great advice, but I’ll add that only certain areas in CA require burn permits and those are usually clearly marked. I camp in northern CA regularly and have never had to buy a burn permit. Always check local conditions. We already have fires. :-(
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Old 07-15-2022, 12:25 PM   #12
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Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have to check the website or the app with the Regional Air Resource Board to see if it's a "Spare the Air Day." Suppose it is, no charcoal or anything (generator) that adds to the pollutants in the air. Yes, you will get a hefty fine if you violate the rule.
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Old 07-15-2022, 12:55 PM   #13
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Any burn restrictions in the White Mountains of Arizona preclude charcoal burning. And at the higher restrictions even welding out doors is banned.

All gasoline vehicles have catalytic converts that run close to a 1K degrees. So going "off" road into tall grasses is a for sure fire hazard.
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Old 07-15-2022, 01:03 PM   #14
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Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we have to check the website or the app with the Regional Air Resource Board to see if it's a "Spare the Air Day." Suppose it is, no charcoal or anything (generator) that adds to the pollutants in the air. Yes, you will get a hefty fine if you violate the rule.

FYI fires used to prepare food are exempt.
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Old 07-15-2022, 01:27 PM   #15
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Old 07-16-2022, 02:31 PM   #16
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Here in California, lots of it depends on where you are and what is going on. Last year, everything was gas ONLY...grill or fireplace. This year, it is a bit less restrictive, but we've been in 2 camps where they allowed NO campfires or BBQ grills (gas or wood) in your site -they had a public area set up you could use if you wanted to do either. Guess I understand, they had all brush and limbs cleared away, water sources set up close by and room for lots of folks...but seriously weird when you don't know the other folks.

We've ditched the charcoal and wood burning fire for a gas grill and a gas fire ring. Not quite as wonderful, but at least we can usually use them.
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Old 07-16-2022, 03:03 PM   #17
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I don't know the legal aspect; but one might check : Red fire in a can (gas); Solo Fire Pit (wood); or there is a fire pit that uses only pellets. They are advertised safe to use on wood decks
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Old 07-16-2022, 06:26 PM   #18
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IMO it is the sparks that the charcoal or wood sends off into the sky that is the concern. as only takes one spark during dry season to set a forest fire.
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Old 07-16-2022, 06:59 PM   #19
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In Colorado the level of fire ban is determined by the county sheriff, not the forest service. You need to check the county website to see the restrictions. A previous comment did explain the different level of bans.
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Old 07-16-2022, 07:41 PM   #20
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In Colorado the level of fire ban is determined by the county sheriff, not the forest service. You need to check the county website to see the restrictions. A previous comment did explain the different level of bans.
Yes, good clarification. I live in Jefferson County and I get my local information from the JeffCo Sheriff’s Department.
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