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How to (Legally) Host a Beach Bonfire in South Walton

There’s something about relaxing on the beach under the stars beside a bonfire that recalls simpler times. The warm glow of flames kindles the companionship of friends and family, creating lasting memories.

South Walton’s sugar-white sand 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 important things you need to know.

We sat down with Brian Kellenberger, Director of Beach Operations, to learn the 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?

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. The total fee per beach bonfire is $100 cash/check or $105 for credit card payments (including $5 processing fee). Submit an online permit request or 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 set-up and clean-up for you: 

Beach Bonfire Set-Up at Sunset in South Walton

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). Applicants wishing to obtain a permit for a private location must have and present written permission from the property owner during the application process.

Q: Are there certain times of day/year when bonfires are allowed?  

A: Bonfires are allowed 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 concurrently at a particular beach access is limited to avoid 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 – October 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 from any combustible materials at all times. 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 doused with water and removed from the beach. The idea is to return the beach to the same condition it was in before the bonfire. Bonfire pits and any evidence of or remnants from fires must be removed from the beach by 1 a.m. and cannot be deposited in TDC beach garbage collection stations.

For more information about beach bonfires, visit the South Walton Fire District website or call (850) 267-1298.


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