Fire Pit Safety

Brush up on basic fire pit safety before you build your next fire. Discover what steps you should take to keep your family safe.

An iron railing provides a barrier from the flames.

Fire Pit Railing Intricately Designed with Filigree

An iron railing provides a barrier from the flames.

Whether you already have a fire pit or are planning to add one, invest some effort in reviewing fire pit safety. This is especially important if you’re new to using a fire pit. It only takes a second for a cozy fire to burst into a blazing inferno. Ensure you get the most enjoyment from your fire pit by keeping family and friends safe.

Fire pit safety starts with selecting the right site. Make sure the ground is level, especially when using a portable fire pit. Keep fires located at least 10 to 20 feet away from surrounding plants, as well as from nearby buildings, including your home. Check with your local city and county authorities to make sure you observe the distance required by law.

Never operate your fire pit beneath a building overhang or in a partially enclosed space. Use special caution related to overhanging trees, which can easily ignite from flying wood-fire sparks. In fire-prone areas, surround your fire pit with non-combustible materials, like crushed stone, brick, or sand.

In wood-stoked fire pits, safety begins with fuel. Only burn wood that’s been seasoned at least six months. Avoid using construction materials, such as plywood or composite woods, which can release toxic fumes when burned. Softwoods, like pine and birch, tend to produce more crackles and sparks than seasoned hardwoods, like oak or hickory. For wood-burning fire pits, cut logs so their length is less than three-quarters the diameter of the pit. Never use lighter fluid or gasoline to start a fire in a fire pit.

If your fire pit has a screen, use it whenever you’re burning. It’s also a good idea to have a bucket of sand or garden hose handy to deal with wayward sparks from wood fires. Attach a hose-end multi-pattern nozzle to the hose, setting it to “spray.” A shower-type spray douses a flare up, while a direct stream of water can spread sparks. Keep fire gloves nearby to handle hot parts of the fire pit safely.

Position chairs so folks can rise and move about seats without risking tumbling into the fire. Built-in seating prevents seats from being drawn too close to the flames; so do heavier chairs. Keep an eye on children whenever a fire pit is being used. Don’t allow them to get too close to the blaze. 

Invest in a fire blanket to help extinguish sparks, the fire, and, if necessary, anyone who might catch fire. Also have a fully charged, dry-chemical fire extinguisher on hand with a Class B and C or multipurpose rating. Make sure you understand the effective range, which is typically 6 to 10 feet, and know how to use it properly. On gas fire pits, turn off the gas before attempting to extinguish a fire. Avoid lighting a fire in windy conditions.

When you’re done enjoying your fire for the evening, douse it properly. Most manufactured fire pits offer specific instructions for extinguishing a fire. Review the instructions before it’s time to put out your fire. Water can crack ceramic fire pits and some metal ones.

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