Roasting marshmallows, cooking hot dogs, and hanging out around the fire with friends and family are evening staples when the weather is nice. Adding a fire pit is a great way to liven up your backyard or patio.
Before you light your first fire, be sure you’re practicing fire safety around the fire pit. Follow these 10 steps to help keep your fire contained so you can enjoy it safely.
1. Use on a Non-Flammable Surface
Non-permanent fire pits are great for seasonal use. You can take them out for the summer and fall, then put them away in storage over the winter. They can also be moved based on the layout of your backyard gathering.
Look for a non-flammable surface when setting up your fire pit. Only put the pit on patio blocks, concrete or another surface that won’t catch fire if a spark gets out. Don’t place your fire pit directly on the grass or a wooden deck.
Watch the area above and around your fire pit as well. You should never put a fire pit underneath a fabric canopy or tree branches. Aim to keep the fire more than 10 feet from structures like your house or a wooden fence. The further away the pit is from flammable objects, the better.
2. Clean the Pit Before Using
Did you clean out the ash and debris from your fire pit after your last fire? Proper maintenance of your fire pit will help it last for years to come, especially if you have a portable metal one. Remove ash buildup using an ash shovel and a non-flammable bucket. You can even look for a shovel and bucket set that’s specifically designed to remove ashes from fire pits.
You should also take out any debris that’s made its way into the pit. Lawn litter like dry leaves could spark and blow out of the fire pit when you light it next.
Plan to clean your fire pit with gentle soap and warm water at least once a season. Wiping down the interior of the pit with a metal-safe soap helps reduce buildup from ash, sap from firewood or food debris. After washing the fire pit, make sure you dry it out completely to prevent rust.
3. Create a Fire Break
A fire break is an important part of firesafe landscaping around your home. You can use the same idea to help keep fires in your fire pit from spreading across your yard. It takes only one spark to ignite dry grass or dead leaves.
To create a fire break, remove any lawn litter or flammable debris from the area around your fire pit. You can also add rocks or dirt around the edge of your pit to help prevent flames from spreading away from the pit if your fire gets too big.
4. Pick the Right Fuel
Do you have a gas or propane fire pit? These pits provide instant flames and warmth, without waiting for kindling to light. Check with your fire pit manufacturer to see what type of fuel you need to run your fire pit.
Even wood fire pits require you to choose the right type of fuel. Always aim to use seasoned firewood in a wood pit. You should never use old plywood or scrap wood, such as a dismantled deck chair, in your wood fire pit. These woods could be treated and release dangerous fumes when burned.
5. Keep It Contained
Use the right amount of fuel for the size of your fire pit. You should try to add enough firewood to keep the flames burning consistently, but not enough that the flames are reaching out of the pit.
You might also want to invest in a spark screen. These metal screens help contain embers when your firewood pops or crackles. Instead of the ember being flung out of the pit and into your yard, it hits the screen and drops back into the fire.
6. Check the Weather
Windy weather and fires don’t mix, so be sure to check the weather before you start your fire. Wind can accelerate the spread of flames and make it difficult to contain a fire that’s gotten out of hand.
Don’t light the fire if it’s too windy out. You can check your local weather report for information on current fire restrictions or recommendations. You should also look at the air quality report. If there is a lot of pollution in the air, your local government may issue a temporary “no burn” policy to keep more pollutants out of the air.
7. Supervise Children and Pets
Keep an eye on any children or pets near the fire pit to ensure they’re a safe distance away. Teach young children about the dangers of fire and how to safely enjoy the fire pit.
When it’s time to roast marshmallows or hot dogs, be sure an adult handles the roasting sticks for children. Not only will roasting treats for young children help prevent burns, but it also helps reduce the risk of someone getting hurt from the roasting stick itself.
8. Never Leave Your Fire Unattended
Don’t leave your fire burning unattended, even if there are no children or pets around. If you need to leave the fireside, ask another responsible adult to maintain the fire while you’re away. Having someone specifically in charge of watching the fire lowers the chance that an ember or spark will fall out unnoticed.
9. Have Extinguishers Ready
Even if you’re careful to watch and contain the fire, you never know when a spark will get away and cause an unwanted fire. Keep your garden hose, a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby and ready to use. You might also want to have a shovel and some dirt that you could use to throw on the flames.
Keeping your extinguishing tools nearby and ready to use will help you catch any sparks before they can cause an uncontained fire. It can take as little as a few seconds for an ember to ignite dry wood, grass, or leaves.
10. Put Out Your Fire Completely
Make sure your fire is completely extinguished when you’re ready to go inside for the night. Embers can stay hot for hours after you put out your fire if not extinguished properly. The hot ash can act as insulation to keep the embers warm and reignite the fire.
To extinguish your fire, let it burn down using the existing fuel. Once the logs have burned to ash, use a shovel or poker to spread the ashes over the bottom of the pit. Let the ashes cool and pour water over them. If you notice the ashes are still smoking or steaming when you put water on them, there are still hot spots. Keep adding water until there is no more steam coming off the ashes.
Keeping Your Home Safe from Fires
Fire pits are a great addition to any backyard patio. Knowing how to use your fire pit safely can help protect your home from runaway flames. You can further protect your home from fires by making sure your homeowners insurance is up to date.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to safely enjoy your fire pit all season long.