The University of Alabama, Division of Finance and Operations

Bonfire Policy

Unit:  Environmental Health and Safety
Contact: Gene Holcomb
Title:  Assistant Director
Effective Date: 9/21/2022
Revision Date: 09/21/2022


The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the University of Alabama (University) is in compliance with the International Fire Code (IFC), state and local ordinances, and University policy regarding bonfires on campus or bonfires sponsored by the University off campus.


Generally, the only bonfire allowed on campus is at the annual homecoming pep rally. If a bonfire is proposed on University property or in connection with a University sponsored or supported event at another location, a review of the plans shall be conducted by Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Primary responsibility for the construction of the bonfire, and the safety of participants, spectators, and others during the event, will remain with the sponsoring organization or group (Sponsor). A review of bonfire plans is initiated by following the University’s Grounds Use Permit Process. 

Approval Process Requirements

This section provides requirements for those who plan a bonfire as part of a University event. The purpose of these requirements is to furnish general information to assist the Sponsor, describe requirements of the University and others, and outline the review process.
  • Plans for bonfire events must be reviewed and approved by the Assistant Director of EHS Fire and Life Safety and may be subject to the approval of other members of University leadership, including the Associate Vice President of Facilities and Grounds, Vice President of Finance and Operations, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
  • To allow for ample time to review the plans and engage the necessary resources, the request for a bonfire must be submitted to the Assistant Director of EHS Fire and Life Safety no less than thirty (30) days prior to the planned event. The requesting party must complete a Grounds Use Permit Request Form with a narrative describing the scope, purpose, location and design of the bonfire, including the Sponsor’s plan for protecting safety and security prior to and during the event.  EHS will appoint an individual(s) to serve as the Coordinator(s) for the event. The Coordinator will serve as the contact for the Sponsor and other groups involved. Prior to construction, the appointed EHS Coordinator will conduct a meeting with all parties involved to review safety issues, security precautions, construction guidelines and any other topics.
  • Bonfire plans must adhere to applicable regulations, codes, ordinances, and rules established by the City of Tuscaloosa and State of Alabama, as well as all applicable University policies and procedures. The Sponsor is responsible for such compliance and is responsible for filing and obtaining a burn permit from the City of Tuscaloosa.  This should be done with the assistance of EHS. All costs of the permit will be the responsibility of the Sponsor.
  • The Sponsor may be required to have an engineering assessment performed by a credentialed professional (i.e., Professional Engineer (PE) or equivalent) to aid in the bonfire design.
  • The only area determined to be appropriate for a bonfire is the Quad in the open area in Zone F-G/5-6 as illustrated on the Quad Map where the Homecoming bonfire is traditionally held. The Associate Vice President of Facilities and Grounds may consider other proposed locations subject to availability and suitability of the site. Any potential damage to University property will also be considered.
  • The Sponsor will be required to pay all the costs associated with the bonfire including but not limited to construction, access control, debris removal, grounds/landscaping restoration, additional police protection, security, safety measures, etc.
  • To protect the safety of the public, the Sponsor will be required to secure the services of the Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue (TFR) to assist with starting and extinguishing the bonfire and to respond to any emergency situations that may arise. EHS will assist the Sponsor with coordinating participation and support from TFR. Any off-campus bonfires not within the jurisdiction of TFR shall be under the control of the fire department for the jurisdiction where the bonfire is held.
  • The University and TFR has the authority to reject a bonfire permit request and may at any time withdraw authorization if there is a change in plans, conflict with applicable codes, or concern with public safety. 

Bonfire Requirements

  • To retain debris/ashes and to allow for cleanup, the base of the bonfire must have 3-4” of clean topsoil or sand. A tarp or other form of ground cover below the topsoil or sand may be needed to prevent liquid accelerants from penetrating the soil.
  • Prior to the Sponsor building a bonfire, the Associate Vice President of Facilities and Grounds will have area utilities and other underground infrastructure located to prevent damage during construction or resulting from heat generated by the bonfire.
  • A bonfire must be constructed in a safe manner by the Sponsor. The bonfire may not be more than 20 feet high, by 25 feet wide. Most importantly, the bonfire design and construction method must include consideration for structure stability. The design shall consider the need for adequate airflow to support combustion.
  • The bonfire should typically not burn longer than two (2) hours and TFR should be on-site with adequate equipment and personnel until the fire is fully extinguished. Unless prior approval is granted, the bonfire should be extinguished no later than midnight. In the event TFR is called to an emergency, leaving a scheduled bonfire without adequate fire response equipment or personnel prior to ignition, the bonfire may be delayed or cancelled at TFR's request.
  • The Sponsor must ensure that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will be on-site prior to the start of the bonfire and prepared to respond to any emergency medical needs.  EHS will assist the Sponsor with coordinating participation and support from EMS.
  • Fuel for the bonfire should consist of seasoned dry firewood and other untreated wood products such as pallets or construction debris. No pressure-treated or chemically treated wood may be used. If pallets are used, all nails, staples and metal brackets may need to be removed to prevent future injury. The wood should be adequately protected from rain and other moisture sources. Once construction of the bonfire is completed, excess wood and debris must be removed from the site.
  • Potential severe weather (i.e., thunderstorms, intense rain, hail, etc.) or steady winds of 15 mph or higher, or gusts of wind that exceed 20 mph may delay the start of the bonfire or cause the bonfire to be cancelled. Weather conditions will be monitored by TFR on a continuous basis beginning at least three (3) hours before the scheduled start. If wind speed increases to a dangerous level or weather conditions deteriorate after the bonfire is started, TFR may elect to cancel the event prior to ignition or extinguish the fire to protect the public and area property.
  • A secure zone must be established by the Sponsor, generally no less than 100 feet from the base of the bonfire. The materials used to secure the area should generally consist of yellow tape and/or rope secured to upright posts. The only persons to be allowed by the Sponsor inside the secure zone are members of TFR and other persons assigned to monitor the crowd.
  • During construction, the Sponsor should keep the area secure and there should be at least two individuals assigned by the Sponsor to watch the area on a 24 hour-a-day basis.
  • The Sponsor should not allow any smoking or open flames or other ignition sources in the construction zone. If the overnight watch has lanterns, grills, or camp stoves they must be kept at least 25 feet from the bonfire and flammable liquids.
  • As a part of the continuous monitoring during construction of the bonfire, the persons responsible for monitoring should remain clear of the bonfire base by no less than 25 feet.
  • Any powered equipment used to construct the bonfire must use designated routes and will need to follow the directions of the Associate Vice President of Facilities and Grounds to avoid damage to landscaping, irrigation systems, sidewalks, etc.
  • All persons involved in the construction must wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) to include boots or shoes with substantial soles, hardhats, eye protection and leather gloves. Depending on the bonfire and construction plan, other PPE may be required.
  • When stacking wood, once the pile reaches a height of six (6) feet, the remaining wood must be put in place with a lift truck, front end loader or other powered device and all persons assisting must remain clear of the equipment and at least 25 feet from the base of the stack.
  • While stacking wood, at least one non-student adult (over age 19) supervisor or organization sponsor should be present to supervise the personnel involved and to direct the operation of the equipment.
  • Only trained and experienced personnel should be allowed to operate powered equipment such as lift trucks, front-end loaders, skid-steer loaders, post-hole augers, etc.


Students’ failure to comply with the provisions in this policy may result in disciplinary action or referral to the Office of Student Conduct coupled with monetary charges for damage and clean-up. Employees may face disciplinary action up to and including termination for failure to comply with the provisions of this policy. In some circumstances, failure to comply may also result in criminal charges or fines.


This policy applies to all persons or organizations wishing to sponsor a bonfire on University property.

Office of the Vice President of Finance and Operations

Approved by Cheryl Mowdy, Assistant Vice President for Finance and Operations, 09/21/2022