A backyard fire pit can be a great way to enjoy the summer—think outdoor marshmallow roasts, char-grilled cookouts, and songs around the campfire, without having to go camping. But while backyard fire pits can be plenty of fun, they can also be dangerous—if you’re not aware of fire pit safety. Here are a few tips for keeping your fire pit activities fun and safe this season.
Avoid incendiary liquids. It’s not uncommon to start fires in fire pits using gasoline or lighter fluid. However, this can be extremely dangerous. If just a few drops of one of these extremely volatile liquids gets on you or on something flammable nearby, your fire could quickly spread out of control. Use too much fluid, and your fire could flare out of control the moment you strike a match—putting you and anyone else too close to the flames in danger.
Light fires the right way. Wood is generally one of the safer fuels you can use, because it burns slowly. However, even wood isn’t without its dangers. Avoid stacking wood too high; if a pile of wood shifts and falls while on fire, it could send sparks or flames scattering in the wrong direction. Instead of using newspaper or leaves to get a fire going, use commercial fire starters—these reduce the amount of smoke that comes from the flames.
Keep your fire pit away from the house. You should keep your fire pit at least three metres away from your house and away from any low-hanging tree branches for optimal fire pit protection. In addition, keep it at least a metre away from outdoor furniture and any garden foliage such as shrubs or bushes. Fire is highly unpredictable, and it can take less than a second for a fire to flare up.
Drinking and fire pits don’t mix. It’s surprisingly common for fire pit injuries to increase around the time of holidays—when people are more likely to be drinking near an open fire pit. More people than you’d think drink too much, lose their balance and fall in or too near to the flames—causing serious burns. If you’re going to light a fire in your backyard, keep it a safe distance away from the area where people will be drinking and hanging out. Don’t overindulge in alcohol while there’s a fire in your fire pit.
Keep the surrounding area clear. You don’t have to be drinking too much to fall into the fire. All it takes is a minute or two of inattention and a misplaced toy, garden rake or uneven patch of paving. Place your fire pit in an area where people are unlikely to trip and fall—make sure the ground is even. Pick up all toys, yard tools, and other objects that can be tripped over, and keep the area around your fire pit clear. This will lessen the danger for yourself and your guests.
Watch the weather. Weather has a huge effect on the relative safety of an outdoor fire. If you’re in the middle of a drought, your foliage is likely to be very dry—and much more likely to flare up from a tiny spark. High winds can also blow a fire out of control very quickly. In general, avoid lighting fires on windy days or during times of lessened precipitation. Lighting up the fire pit can be a fun part of celebrating summer. But make sure you do it safely. Follow these tips for outdoor fire pit safety, and you’re much more likely to manage your fire pit without risk of injury to yourself, your guests, and your family.