How to (Legally) Host a Beach Bonfire in South Walton
There’s something about relaxing on the beach, under the stars and beside a bonfire that recalls simpler times. The warm glow of flames and the companionship of friends and family create lasting memories.
South Walton’s sugar-white sands and bright starry nights set the perfect stage for roasting marshmallows and sharing s’mores while listening to the waves lap in the distance. But before you do, there are a few things you need to know.
We sat down with Brian Kellenberger, Visit South Walton’s director of beach operations, to learn rules designed to keep visitors safe and the beach pristine when it comes to hosting a bonfire in South Walton.
Q: Do I need a permit? If so, how much does it cost?
A: Yes. Permits must be obtained through the South Walton Fire District. Applications are processed Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. at 911 N County Highway 393 in Santa Rosa Beach. Permit fees are $50 (cash or check). Credits cards are accepted and a convenience fee is added. Call 850-267-1298 to get started.
(If you want to leave the work to the professionals, there are a variety of companies in South Walton that are more than happy to acquire permits on your behalf, provide equipment and handle the setup and cleanup for you: 30A Blaze, 30A Sunset Beach Service, 850 Event Rentals, Blazzed Barrels, Blue Sky, Coastal Concierge, Grayton Beach Gear, Grayton Beach Catering, Jongle Beach Services, La Dolce Vita, Light Me Up Bonfires, Live Well, Miramar Beach Services, Rent Gear Here, Sowal Beach Buggys, Steve Kirby – The Bonfire Guy, Tygar Jons Beach Rentals.)
Q: Where can I have a bonfire in South Walton?
A: Bonfires are allowed on the majority of beaches within South Walton (parks are regulated by the state of Florida). In fact, more than 3,000 beach bonfire permits were granted in 2017.
Q: Are there certain times of day/year when bonfires are allowed?
A: Bonfires are allowable 365 days a year and there are no restrictions on whether they are held during the day or at night. The number of bonfires held at a particular beach access are limited to avoid any congestion.
Q: What requirements/rules must I follow?
A: To obtain a bonfire permit, you must be at least 18 years of age. The person who obtains the permit must be present during the hours the bonfire is held and the approved permit must be on-site. Fire officials and law enforcement officials have the right to check for permit compliance. During turtle season (May 1 – Oct. 31), bonfires must maintain a distance of 200 feet from any turtle nest, 50 feet from vehicles, public roads, structures, and plants and vegetation.
Bonfire containers must be used and approved by the SWFD at the time of permit issuance. Approved containers include galvanized metal tubs, fire pits or burn barrels that are no larger than four feet in diameter. Keep in mind that there is a required three foot clearance at all time from combustible materials. It’s a good idea to keep water or another type of device used to extinguish fires nearby.
Q: Am I responsible for cleaning up the bonfire when I’m done?
A: Yes. When you are through with your bonfire, all ashes and materials must be wet down with water and removed from the beach. The idea is to return the beach to the same condition as it was before the bonfire. Bonfire pits and any evidence of or remnants from fires must be removed from the beach by 1:00 a.m. and cannot be deposited in TDC beach garbage collection stations.
For more information about bonfires, visit www.swfd.org or call 850-267-1298.