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Ocean City

Bonfires on the Beach

Bonfires on the beach … The allure of a crackling bonfire, the gentle sound of crashing waves, and the salty sea breeze create an enchanting atmosphere that beckons visitors to Ocean City, Maryland, and Assateague Island. Both destinations offer unique opportunities to enjoy bonfires on their scenic beaches. Whether you prefer the bustling ambiance of Ocean City or the serene beauty of Assateague’s national and state parks, bonfires by the shore promise unforgettable moments. In this article, we’ll explore the regulations and guidelines for bonfires at each location.

Bonfires on the Beach in Ocean City, MD:

Ocean City’s sandy shoreline is the perfect backdrop for a beach bonfire, offering an ideal setting for an evening of relaxation and camaraderie. However, it’s important to be aware of the regulations and guidelines set forth by the city to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Regulations for bonfires on the beach in Ocean City:

  1. Bonfire shall be a minimum of 75 feet away from the dunes towards the ocean.
  2. Only untreated, natural wood may be used in the bonfire.
  3. Bonfire must be thoroughly extinguished and cooled down prior to midnight and all material must be disposed of in a user-supplied metal container and removed from the beach upon completion. Material must not be buried in the sand, thrown into the ocean or placed in plastic garbage receptacles on the beach.
  4. Bonfire MUST be attended at all times. Precautions must be taken to ensure all attendees, especially children, are kept at a safe distance from the bonfire at all times.
  5. All other normal beach regulations, including but not limited to: driving on the beach, consumption of alcoholic beverages, time parameters and pets shall be adhered to.
  6. Groups under the age of 18 must be chaperoned by an adult twenty-one (21) years of age or older. The permit will be issued only to the chaperone, who will be responsible for compliance with the requirements for the bonfire.
  7. The person obtaining the permit must be present during the hours of the bonfire. They must have in their possession a copy of this permit (paper or digital) and present it upon request of a Fire Official or Police Officer. The Town of Ocean City reserves the right to check for permit compliance at any time.
  8. Blackout Dates/Times Locations: Bonfire permits will not be issued for the following:
    • -For any time after midnight
    • -At any location south of 30th Street from May 1st- September 30th
    • -Additional dates/locations where adverse conditions preclude the safe permitting/regulation of bonfires

Fire Marshall Recommendations

  • The Fire Marshal’s Office recommends the following items be utilized for the safe setup and cleanup of a bonfire:
        • -Water bucket (for extinguishing)
        • -Large Metal bucket/trashcan (for debris cleanup)
        • -Metal Shovel
        • -Firewood
        • -Paper, starter log, or other kindling
        • -Grill Lighter or other wind-resistant torch

Bonfire Set-Up Requirements in Ocean City

  • Bonfire material must only consist of untreated wood. It may not include:
  • -Pallets
  • -Any wood with embedded metal (nails, plates, etc.)
  • -Salt or creosote-treated or chemically impregnated lumber
  • -Tar paper or glue-impregnated material
  • -Trash, plastic/foam, rubber, glass or metal products
  • Flammable and/or combustible liquids must not be utilized for igniting or fueling bonfires.
  • Bonfires are permitted only on the beach near the water and a minimum of 75 feet from the dunes. The fire must also be a sufficient distance away from beach boxes, lifeguard stands and other potentially combustible items to avoid possible ignition.
  • Unsuitable wind or weather conditions must be taken into consideration prior to and during the actual bonfire. Adverse conditions may cause the revocation of this permit.
  • Servicing of the bonfire site will be accomplished by hand carrying the equipment and supplies to the site. Vehicles shall not service the bonfire site.
  • Bonfires may be no larger than 3 feet high and 4 feet in diameter, and must be placed in a pit approximately 1 foot deep.

Bonfire Clean-up Requirements in Ocean City

  • Cleanup and restoration of the site must be completed by the expiration date and time set forth by this permit. All ash and leftover material must be thoroughly wet down and allowed to properly cool before being placed in a user-supplied metal trash can and removed from the beach. At no time should warm embers be placed in any trash receptacles. The fire pit must be leveled to return the beach to its previous status. MATERIAL AND/OR ASH SHALL NOT BE BURIED IN THE SAND OR THROWN IN THE OCEAN.
  • Bonfire site will be inspected post cleanup. The permittee may be billed additional fees for the cost of response/cleanup in the event of failure to properly cleanup from the bonfire. Future bonfire applications may be denied due to previous improper cleanup.
  • All persons encompassed in this permit must vacate the bonfire site no later than the date and time set forth by this permit.
  • The Town of Ocean City’s Department of Public Works cleans the beach each night. When you see a beachcomber tractor approaching your area, please be mindful of them and bring your crowd in closer to the bonfire so that they may properly clean the beach.
Here the ponies hovered outside the fire circle under a full moon on Assateague’s National Seashore. A permit was obtained because of the size of the group which gathered after the rehearsal dinner for a perfect wedding the next day!

Bonfires on Assateague Island National Seashore:

Located just south of Ocean City, Assateague Island National Seashore is a protected barrier island renowned for its untouched natural beauty and the presence of the iconic wild horses. This pristine destination offers the opportunity to immerse oneself in the tranquility of nature while enjoying a beach bonfire.

Regulations for bonfires on Assateague Island National Seashore:

Beach bonfires are permitted for groups of 25 people or less on the beach between the high and low tide lines (not on the high beach). Fires must be completely extinguished with water and all debris removed from the beach. Groups larger than 25 people need to obtain a Special Use Permit

For more information on Assateague, click here.

No Bonfires at Assateague State Park:

Adjacent to Assateague Island National Seashore, Assateague State Park offers visitors the chance to experience the unique coastal ecosystems and abundant wildlife of this barrier island. While bonfires are not permitted directly on the beach at the state park, self-contained or mini-propane grills are allowed, but are not to be used on the concession deck area or on the beach. Charcoal grills are not allowed because there is no place to dispose of the waste. 

Whether you choose to enjoy a beach bonfire in Ocean City or venture south to Assateague Island, both destinations provide breathtaking settings for creating unforgettable memories. Remember to adhere to the regulations and guidelines set forth by the respective authorities to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for yourself, fellow visitors, and the environment. So gather your loved ones, grab some firewood, and bask in the warmth of a beach bonfire as you embrace the beauty of the coast and create lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come.

Ann has been with StateVentures since 1999. She moved from Annapolis to Berlin, MD to be closer to Ocean City. She splits her work week between the two locations to help clients and visitors get the best information and value out of our sites. She loves a camera and any excuse to use it.  Her kids are both grown and off adventuring.  Ann loves to travel with her kids and lives with her dog Marley when she's not in Virginia fishing.

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