Skip to Content

Is It Legal to Start Your Fire With a Flamethrower?

You’ve probably seen a flamethrower in action and wondered if starting a campfire with one is legal. After all, it looks super cool. Who wouldn’t want to use something that shoots big flames? 

Before you search the Internet for the perfect model, you’ll want to ensure you aren’t setting yourself up for a lawsuit. 

Today, we’re answering all your questions about these devices so you can make an informed decision. 

Let’s light it up!

Exterminator with full protective suit with a flamethrower. He uses the flamethrower to legally destroy certain insect nests.
Are flamethrowers legal, and can you start your campfire with one?

What Is a Flamethrower?

As the name implies, flamethrowers are machines used to shoot fire. They come in many different styles. Some look like bazookas, while others resemble a jetpack with a handheld hose. 

However, each type consists of the same basic elements. The main components include two tanks, one for flammable liquid and another for carbon dioxide. Flamethrowers also have an ignition system and a wand that emits flames. When the device is on, a pilot torch, or small blaze, stays lit. Once you pull the trigger, it ejects propane or butane, forming a giant arc of fire.

Depending on the model, you could incinerate something hundreds of feet away. It’s no wonder people want to buy these tools for personal use. It’s hard to imagine anything more awesome than a flamethrower. 

Always treat fire with respect: 5 Ways Your Camper Can Catch on Fire.

To answer the question of starting a fire with this device, we should first look at laws regarding ownership. According to the federal government, it’s legal to own a flamethrower. 

The National Firearms Act doesn’t list them as weapons. On the contrary, officials define them as tools. However, certain states have their own rules on the books.

Maryland banned these devices outright. You can’t even have them shipped into the state. If busted in possession of a flamethrower, you could face 25 years in jail or a fine of up to $250,000. 

California code requires you to have a permit before possessing or operating one of these machines. Unsurprisingly, most authorized uses are for folks in the movie industry. 

No other states have specific laws regarding the legality of flamethrowers, but local ordinances exist in some places. So be sure to check your jurisdiction for regulations. 

If you don’t find restrictions on record, then congratulations! You can legally start a fire with a flamethrower. 

Grab the right wood for your campfire: The Best (and Worst) Wood for Burning.

Why Are Flamethrowers Illegal in War?

As horrific as it sounds, flamethrowers were once legal for use in combat. Warriors employed Greek fire in naval battles as far back as the Byzantine Empire. We still don’t know exactly how it worked, but it’s thought that petroleum or naphtha kept the flames burning. 

During World War I, the German Flammenwerfer could shoot up to 120 feet of fire. More modern devices made devastating appearances on the battlefield between World War II and the Vietnam War. 

Initially, these tools merely shocked the enemy. They didn’t cause crippling harm. However, the invention of napalm turned these machines into deadly weapons. Armored tanks outfitted with the sticky additive could fire bursts over 100 yards. 

Ultimately, flamethrowers became illegal in combat, and liquid hellfire lost its place on the battlefield. Today, the use of these devices is considered inhumane. Although you won’t find any international laws banning them in warfare, the US Department of Defense outlawed them in 1978. 

A firefighter is using a drip torch to ignite dried prairie grasses in a prescribed burn. Land management agencies will often use flamethrowers to start controlled burns legally.
Firefighters and land management agencies will often use flamethrowers to start controlled burns legally.

While no longer a weapon of war, a flamethrower has a lot of practical and legal uses today. 

In the field of land management, they make easy work of controlled burns. The method of torching ground cover allows beneficial plants to flourish. It also helps secure habitats for small critters. 

Another benefit of these pre-burns is that it stunts the progression of wildfires. By eliminating flammable brush at the beginning of the season, there’s less chance of forest fires burning out of control. 

You can also use flamethrowers to kill invasive pests. Specific insect nests are difficult and dangerous to remove. But torching them with a fire-producing device is a safe way to do it. 

If you live in an area that experiences lots of winter snow and ice, you might benefit from one of these machines. After all, it’s much easier to spray down your sidewalk with an arc of fire than spend hours shoveling snow. 

Finally, it might surprise you to discover how often artists use these devices. Although pyrography usually involves a pen with a burning tip, flamethrowers can create images on wood and other hard surfaces. Others use them to amaze onlookers in fire performance acts.

Pyrotechnics are popular in film production, particularly in action movies. But even commercials may use them for special effects. The next time you see flames in an advertisement, it’s likely that a fire-hurling gadget made them.  

Tech billionaire Elon Musk created what The Boring Company calls Not a Flamethrower. Although, by all accounts, that’s exactly what it is. According to his website, rumors that he’s developing a zombie apocalypse to sell his devices are false. That said, they do appear to be the precise tool for the job.

Compact flamethrowers like this work great at home or when you’re camping: Zebre Propane Torch.

Should You Start a Fire with a Flamethrower?

Whether or not you can legally start a fire with a flamethrower depends on where you live. As we mentioned, certain states and regional jurisdictions ban them outright. So be aware of local laws before purchasing one of these machines. 

Whatever you do, be sure to practice common sense and keep a fire extinguisher handy in case things get out of hand!

Discover the Best Free Camping Across the USA

To be honest with you, we hate paying for camping. There are so many free campsites in America (with complete privacy).

You should give it a try!

As a matter of fact, these free campsites are yours. Every time you pay federal taxes, you’re contributing to these lands.

Become a FREE CAMPING INSIDER and join the 100,000 campers who love to score the best site! 

We’ll send you the 50 Best Free Campsites in the USA (one per state). Access the list by submitting your email below: