With the sometimes cold spring temps, many beachgoers would rather sit by a fire than head into the water. Luckily, in Walton County you can legally have your bonfire and enjoy it too.
Those wanting to enjoy a crackling fire on Destin beaches aren't so fortunate since beach bonfires are illegal according to an Okaloosa County ordinance. Beach bonfires aren't permitted in Santa Rosa County either.
Before you grab the graham crackers and marshmallows, there are a few simple bonfire rules to follow for the safety of your guests and fellow patrons on the beach, explained Sammy Sanchez, Fire Marshal at South Walton Fire District.
1. Get your permit — First step in planning your bonfire party is obtaining a permit from the South Walton Fire District, located at 911 N. County Highway 393. There are two types of permits. Beach-front property owners can obtain a yearly permit at no cost. For non-owners, permits are $50 for a 24-hour period. Bonfires are only allowed on public accesses, otherwise you have to get written permission from the property owner before getting your permit. The person obtaining the permit must be 18-years-old and present during the hours at the bonfire. Rainchecks and refunds are not available, even in the event of inclement weather.
2. Set up — There are a few things to consider when setting up your bonfire. First is your materials. Bonfires must not consist of pressure treated lumber, tar paper, rubber products, creosote treated lumber, glue impregnated material, plastic, foam or household trash. Use paper and matches rather than a lighter/gasoline to ignite your fire. The bonfire must be in a metal container, such as a galvanized tub, fire pit or burn barrel no larger than four-feet in diameter. Also, pay close attention to your location. Bonfires should be 100-feet away from habitable structures, 200-feet away from sea turtle nests and 50-feet away from vehicles, public roads and plants and vegetation.
3. Party's over — It's important to not just clean up your trash, but to make sure the fire is properly extinguished. Ashes and leftover material must be thoroughly wet down and removed from the beach. Keep a bucket of water or other extinguishing device nearby. Cleanup must be completed by the time and date set on the permit.
Bonfire Guy has got you covered
If you'd rather skip the red tape, there are also businesses in South Walton that handle the entire beach bonfire process.
Steve Kirby — the Bonfire Guy — started setting up bonfires for special occasions about three years ago as a side business.
"Spring break typically starts the season," he said.
Kirby acquires the bonfire permit in his name, starts the fire and cleans up, leaving you to just enjoy the view.
"I take care of it all," he said.
After years of experience, Kirby has a few favorite spots to set up including Ed Walline beach access and Santa Clara in Seagrove Beach, choosing to stay clear of the crowds at Pompano Joe's.
For more information about Bonfire Guy, call 797-5358 or visit www.bonfireguy.com.