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Fire Pit Safety

July 21st, 2015

Backyard fire pits are becoming more and more popular. Builders and landscapers are including them in their designs, DIY-ers are adding them to their summer to-do list, and homeowners everywhere are picking up portable versions at their local home improvement store. What’s the reason for their increase in popularity? Backyard fire pits offer an outdoor gathering spot for friends and families on summer nights and extend backyard use into the fall and winter months. But despite the campfire feel and endless summer S’mores they provide, backyard fire pits can still be dangerous if not used or maintained properly.

As a volunteer firefighter and life-safety professional, my number one priority is to keep people safe from fires, and a great way to prevent these dangers is through education. Here are some important safety tips to keep in mind when using fire pits:

– Check with your local fire department for fire pit regulations. Many cities may have restrictions on the use of fire pits and outdoor burning.
– If fire pits are allowed, position it at least 10 feet from your house and trees or other shrubbery. It’s also a smart idea to place the fire pit on top of leveled stone, brick, or concrete. Avoid lighting on top of grass.
– When lighting your fire pit, do not use gasoline, lighter fluid or other flammable liquids.
– If you are in charge of maintaining the fire pit for the evening, don’t wear flammable or loose fitting clothing.
– Check the wind direction and strength before you light a fire. Ensure that smoke or debris from the fire pit are not blowing toward your home or in your face, and if too windy, avoid lighting altogether.
– Position chairs far enough back from the fire pit to not get burned, and always keep an eye on children when the fire pit is lit.
– Only burn dry wood that has been cut at least 6 months ago.
– Keep something handy to put out the flames in case of an emergency. A bucket of sand, a fire extinguisher, or a garden hose would all work.
– Never leave a fire pit unattended. If you need to go somewhere or if you’re done for the evening, put the fire out properly. Most fire pit manufacturers offer specific instructions.
– After use, learn how to safely dispose of fire pit ashes.

-Steve Roy, Director of Acquisition Integration & Technology Services & Volunteer Firefighter

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