Is it Illegal to Start a Fire with Gasoline?


Starting a fire with gasoline…it’s a life choice we don’t recommend. Obvious safety concerns aside, is it actually legal, though? This is a question that is generally fairly easy to answer but there are some important considerations to get the answer you want.

Generally it is not illegal to start a fire with gasoline, assuming your action isn’t already considered a crime like arson or assault. While starting a campfire, bonfire, or cooking fire with gasoline isn’t illegal it’s still a very bad idea and never recommended for safety reasons.

Did you already forget our blog post on why its never safe to start a fire with gas? That’s a quick under 5 minute read that lays out the argument perfectly for why you should never use gasoline to start a fire.

red metal gas can

That said, this is not a legal site, we’re not lawyers, and you need to check on the following to make sure you’re not in violation of any of these before getting started and lighting that next fire.

When Is a Gasoline Fire Illegal?

The use of gasoline on a fire is currently not illegal in the United States. However, there are many times when setting a fire is an illegal action in and of itself. In those situations, adding gasoline to the mix is absolutely a terrible idea and will often further any potential penalties.

A short (though certainly not exhaustive) list of situations where starting a fire of any kind could be illegal would include:

  • When an open fire ban is in effect
  • When it is part of arson
  • When it is an assault or threat of assault on another person
  • When it’s part of destruction of property
  • There are special local, park, or other ordinances in place that result in a local ban
  • When you’re starting a fire in a place where fire is explicitly banned
  • When it’s in a place that can be considered a hazard to your health

Depending on where you live and what the weather/situation is, even fires being set up on private property may fall under a local ordinance or burn restriction. In that case even those fires that might normally be legal would still be in violation and could get you serious fines or even jail time.

That still doesn’t change the fact that with all the options available, there’s really no good reason to pick gasoline as your fire starter of choice.

Not even when dealing with a big rural bonfire for a massive pile of trash, shrubs, or storm cleanup.

Why Not Use Lighter Fluid?

Lighter fluid is an accelerant that is actually designed to help you start intense fires that are going to burn through. While you still need to be careful around it, or any type of accelerant, at least lighter fluid is designed for staying on the fire.

Gasoline was never manufactured for use as a fire starter. It’s vapors are flammable making it dangerous even in open air areas. The air itself can start on fire. The gas fumes around ankle and shin length can spread out and burn. Enough fumes gathering in even an outdoor area can result in an explosion.

So even if starting a fire with gasoline is legal in your area: why take that chance?

User lighter fluid which is far more contained. Take some time to set up a proper fire starter of sawdust, dried bark, and dried skinny twigs. It might not have the “boom” effect but that’s a good thing when hospital visits are in play when things go wrong.

This is the only place where a gas-powered fire should be encouraged (and that’s not direct gasoline).

The biggest thing on the legal side is to check for burn notices or local ordinances. These are the locally customized rules that can get you in trouble with the law when it comes to gas fires. As far as national or state laws, as of this writing they’re not on the books.

Starting a gasoline fire might not be the smartest move in the book, but it’s not currently illegal in and of itself in any state.

In Conclusion

Starting a fire with gasoline is illegal, as long as the fire itself is legal, but it is never a good idea and should be avoided 100% of the time. Even if you’re on a rural country property and need a giant bonfire for a huge pile of trash and garbage or post-storm cleanup, use lighter fluid. Not gas.

Staying on the safe side of things will keep you out of the hospital, avoiding tragedy, and on the right side of the law. Not to mention keeping you off of terrible YouTube videos where you look like an idiot for all the world to see.

Be smart, avoid using gasoline to start fires (even when it is legal), and you’ll be happier with the results.

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Outdoor Shane

There's nothing I love more than the great outdoors, but being big on exploring, traveling, off-grid survival, and having survived venomous spider and snake bites - I'm a firm believer that you can enjoy more of the outdoors by being aware and prepared for the dangers you could find there. Hope you enjoy this site and don't let fear keep you from exploring the natural world!

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