You can bring the fun of camping to your backyard with an outdoor fire pit. But just like a campfire or an indoor fireplace, you must practice good fire pit safety habits. The following fire pit safety tips can help keep your home and family safe while you enjoy a backyard fire pit.
Fire pit safety tips
1. Know how to extinguish a fire pit
According to Recreation.gov, the most important aspect of fire safety is knowing how to extinguish the fire pit. They recommend letting the fire burn down naturally, then pouring water over all the embers. Use the back of your hand to check for residual heat to identify any spots you might have missed.
2. Learn how to safely start a fire
The counterpart to extinguishing a fire pit is when and how to light the fire pit safely. Build your fire on a flat surface made of non-flammable barrier material like cement pavers or a commercially designed fire pit, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Pay attention to the wind direction and avoid lighting the fire pit if the wind is strong. Use kindling like dry leaves and small twigs to light the fire safely. According to S&S Firepits, if you use a match, you should place your match under the kindling, not over it. As the heat from the match rises, it will catch the kindling on fire and then spread to the firewood.
Another tip when lighting a fire pit with a match is to light upwind so the fire blows into the kindling, making it easier to catch. Never use combustibles like lighter fluid or gasoline.
3. Use the right wood for a safe fire pit
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that selecting the right wood is an integral part of fire pit safety. Use seasoned, dried wood intended for fireplaces and backyard fires. This kind of wood burns cleaner than other kinds. Never use construction scraps or other treated lumber, and don’t light a fire pit on air quality alert days.
4. Pick the right spot to maximize home fire pit safety
Location is important if you’re using a safe fire pit like a portable commercial model or a permanent one built on cement pavers. If you have a portable pit, set it up downwind from the house or other structures on your property. Keep an eye out for anything flammable, and make sure that the area around the fire pit is clear for at least 10 feet. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) also recommends checking the area above the fire pit. Don’t position your fire pit under overhanging branches or other flammable materials and objects.
You might position the seating about 3-4 feet from the fire. If you want to roast marshmallows or other treats, consider using long roasting rods to ensure the proper distance from the fire.
5. Use a screen after you light a fire pit
Containing stray sparks is another essential aspect of outdoor fireplace safety. Even if you’ve taken all the necessary precautions when choosing the position of your fire pit, changes in the wind can blow sparks in unexpected directions. An adequately fitted fire screen can contain sparks and keep them from spreading onto flammable materials.
Other considerations for outdoor fire pit safety
Even if you follow all the fire pit safety rules, accidents can still happen. Homeowners insurance may cover damage from fire, depending on your policy and the event’s details. If the fire damages or destroys a detached garage, tool shed, or other structure on your property that isn’t attached to your home, other structures coverage may pay to rebuild or make repairs.
Before you light your backyard fire pit for the first time, familiarize yourself with what to do if there’s a home fire, so you can react quickly.