5 Outdoor Fire Pit Tips to Keep Your Family Safe
As the long nights close in and the cold weather encroaches, we have to do everything we can to extend the enjoyment of our wonderful gardens.
And while outdoor gas or electric heaters are definitely an option, a favorite of ours is the good old fire pit.
Maybe it’s that connection we feel with our ancestral past when early humans gathered around the fire for safety and comfort.
Or a little less introspective, it might be the simple fun of roasting some marshmallows on a stick with your children.
Whatever the cause, the fall and winter months are a perfect time to spark up the pit. However, it is important to do so safely.
With that in mind, here is a short guide with 5 essential tips on how to keep everyone safe when the fire pit is ablaze.
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Positioning your fire pit?
The position of your fire pit is the number one issue to get right.
Whether your fire pit is a portable one, or fully installed, you need to think carefully about where it is placed in your yard.
The first priority is to make sure the fire pit isn’t close to any structure. At the very least it should be 10 feet away from your house, shed, or garden fence. If your garden is large enough to accommodate even greater distances, do so.
Clearly, this also means that your fire pit must not be positioned under a covered shelter or a tree canopy of branches.
The surface is also important. Never place a fire pit on a flammable surface, (such as wood decking or grass), concrete or tiling and brickwork are your friend here.
Put simply, the further your fire pit is from anything that could burn, the better.
Preparation is key to ensuring safety when using a fire pit.
Again, all flammable materials should be kept well away from the pit. Before you light anything, check the surroundings are tidy and organized, (a clear zone of 5 feet is a good starting point).
Having a circle of dirt or rock surrounding the pit will act as a good demarcation zone, should the fire start to spread across the ground.
Your pit should be deep enough to adequately hold the fire without burning pieces dropping into the floor.
While the design of a commercial fire pit will take of this, (assuming you have cleaned it sufficiently from previous use) a homemade fire pit should be at least 6 inches deep. Width of 2 feet is a good rule of thumb too.
Lighting the Fire Pit
When it comes to lighting your fire pit you need to think like a good boy scout.
Take a moment to check the wind direction. If there’s anything downwind of the pit, clear it out of the way.
If the wind is too high, it could be that tonight is the night for a bit of fire pit action.
Lighter fluid is a big no, no when it comes to light a fire pit. It is difficult to predict and control and the sudden ignition of the fluid can do horrible things to your eyebrows. Your best bet is to use commercial fire starter cubes or sticks. Place some thin kindling on top of this and gradually build the fire from there.
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Using Your Fire Pit
- 1st rule of the fire pit – Never leave it unattended.
- 2nd rule of the fire pit – never leave it unattended.
The first rule is so important we have no choice but to state it twice.
It actually leads on to the other rules too. It goes without saying that you should never leave children or your pets near a fire pit alone.
Try to limit the amount of fuel you use. There are no kudos points being passed around because you’ve got 5 foot high flames flickering into the air.
Add to the fire sparingly so that everyone stays warm and can enjoy the evening without their arm hairs being singed.
Never put garbage or paper products into the fire. Likewise, pine or cedar should be avoided. Highly flammable materials can pop or throw sparks. This is how fires can spread.
A wire mesh cover is a good idea if you do have children playing while the fire pit is in full swing. This can keep the embers and sparks safely within the confines of the pit. (It also helps prevent hands from getting too close).
Make sure granny isn’t wearing a dress that might flap in the breeze in the direction of the flames. The end result of that is a Youtube video waiting to happen, (along with a follow-up trip to the emergency room.)
Remember, common sense is key. A good practice is to keep a bucket of water to one side. Better to be safe than sorry as they say.
Putting it Out
Once the fire pit fun is over and it is time to go inside, extinguishing the pit safely is of uttermost importance.
Using water should suffice. Drown out the flames and then disturb the sodden embers with a shovel. This will ensure that everything has been sufficiently cooled.
Ashes should be placed into a metal can that is designed to take hot embers. Do not the ashes in with the normal trash as even the smallest warm ember can cause a fire to spread.
Do not take fire for granted, no matter how many times you have used your pit. Double-check everything before you leave.
And there you have it, the best ways to keep safe when using your fire pit this winter.
Get out there and enjoy it. As we’ve said before, just because the weather is cold, doesn’t mean your garden cannot be used. Fresh outside air is a wonderful thing.