Fire Pit Safety Tips & FAQs: Your Guide to Safely Using Your Fire Pit
Convos and beverages with friends under the stars. Roasted weenies and s’mores. Fire pits bring the party to your backyard. But like anything where fire is involved, there’s a safe and an unsafe way to enjoy your fire pit. We’re going to talk about that right now, as we dive into some fire pit safety tips and FAQs.
#1 Where should my fire pit be located?
First things first. Let’s talk fire pit placement. You’ll need a flat surface, but do not place your fire pit directly on the grass. Ideally, you want your fire pit raised at least 6-10 inches off the ground on some type of a metal or other non-combustible base.
Now let’s talk distance from your home. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need to place your fire pit at least 10 feet from your home, storage shed, fence, or any other structure or dwelling.
If you place your fire pit too close to your home, the heat your fire pit produces could heat up the vinyl or wood siding and cause it to ignite. Plus, you don’t want to have to worry about stray sparks or embers or what would happen if the fire in the fire pit got out of hand fast. So, aim for a distance of at least 10 to 20 feet of open space between your fire pit and any buildings or structures.
What else should you consider when thinking about where you’re going to put your fire pit? The surrounding trees and overhangs. The area where you build or place your fire pit should be open and away from trees, awnings, coverings, and other things that could ignite if the fire gets a little out of hand on a windy night.
While those are general rules, you will need to check with local codes and ordinances (this means city, county, and state rules, plus your Homeowner’s Association if you have one) because these will ultimately dictate where you can and can’t place your fire pit.
And if you’re buying a fire pit kit, check the manufacturer’s instructions – they’ll typically include additional placement tips specific to your fire pit, like:
- how deep you need to dig when installing your fire pit
- how far off the ground your fire pit needs to be
- if your fire pit needs to go on a non-combustible pedestal
- how you should arrange the wood in your fire pit
- how you should light the fire pit
- and more
Note: Gas fire pits and fire tables typically have fewer rules and restrictions around spacing and placement. Still, always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
#2 Can I put a fire pit on my deck?
If your deck is attached to your home (or within 10 feet of your home), the answer is no. If, however, you have a deck area in your yard, away from the home, you can put a fire pit on your deck if you have proper protection in place to prevent heat transfer.
#3 What can I put under a fire pit?
Putting a fire pit directly on the lawn, wood or composite deck, or other surface can cause damage and be a fire hazard – so, you’ll need to put a protective barrier under the fire pit during installation to prevent heat transfer and damage to the surface.
Even concrete and brick can crack, spall, and otherwise be damaged by heat and moisture over time, so adding a barrier is always a good idea, no matter what type of surface you’re placing your fire pit on.
You may want to consider a heat shield, a pit pad or mat, cement pavers, a fire ring, or some other heat-absorbing, non-combustible material. If you’re buying a fire pit kit, the manufacturer’s instructions will let you know what is recommended for your particular fire pit.
#4 How do I start a fire in my fire pit?
The key to starting a fire in your fire pit is to have the right materials. Put away your lighter fluid and gasoline – these are dangerous and release toxic fumes, and you don’t need them! Instead, get:
- a lighter
- some tinder (like leaves or dryer lint)
- small branches or kindling
- seasoned, dry firewood
Step 1: Once you’ve got everything ready, you’ll want to put the smaller bits of tinder – dry leaves, dryer lint, small twigs – in the fire pit as your fire base.
Step 2: Next, you’ll add small branches and sticks in a circular pattern around your fire base, creating a pyramid or teepee shape with a small opening in the middle.
Step 3: Continue your circular pattern, adding gradually larger and larger branches and logs.
Step 4: Once you’re done building the fire, simply use your lighter (long lighters work best!) to ignite the tinder at the center of your fire. With time, the fire should spread from the tinder to the kindling, and once it’s going strong, you can add more logs as needed.
Psst! For tips on picking out and seasoning and storing firewood, check out our Ultimate Guide to Firewood.
#5 Can I use a Duraflame log in a fire pit?
Duraflame has outdoor firelogs that are ideal for use in fire pits. These logs can be stacked two or three at a time, so you can quickly get a nice fire going in your fire pit.
That said, all their other logs can also be used outdoors, but you can only burn one log at a time if you’re not using the Duraflame Outdoor Firelogs.
#6 Can I leave a fire burning in the fire pit overnight?
As fire safety advocates, we do not recommend leaving a fire burning in your fire pit overnight or leaving a fire unattended in any situation. Instead, put the fire out when you’re ready to head inside for the night.
Let’s talk about how to safely do that…
#7 How do I properly put out a fire in the fire pit?
You may be inclined to just spray a steady, hard stream of water from your garden hose into the center of the fire or dump a bucket of water in the fire pit to put out the fire – but that’s not the best (or safest) way to go.
Here’s what you want to do instead…
Use your hose to wet down the embers and logs slowly in a zig-zag spray pattern. Take a rake or shovel and overturn everything, letting the water soak in while you stir things around. Continue doing this until you’ve thoroughly saturated everything in the fire pit.
Why not just dump a bucket of water on the fire or aim the hose at the center of the fire and call it a night? Because when you first hit the embers and logs with water, a hard crust will form across the top. That crust will prevent the water from saturating everything, which means that under that shell surface, there’ll still be a lot of heat to feed the fire when you head back indoors.
Another reason you don’t want to simply dump a bucket of water on the fire is that when water meets fire, a lot of steam is created, and you want to be far enough away that you don’t get burned.
Other Essential Fire Pit Safety Tips
What else do you need to know to safely enjoy your fire pit all year long?
- Wet the grass around your fire pit before you light a fire. A great way to keep your lawn looking good and prevent any grass burns is to wet down the grass around your fire pit prior to lighting a fire. Just a quick spray of the hose should do.
- Put a lid on it. It’s always best to have a lid with a screen for your fire pit to prevent stray sparks and hot popping embers from hitting those around the fire or setting dry areas of the lawn on fire.
- Don’t leave a fire unattended. Leaving an outdoor fire unattended is illegal and a fire hazard. Just because it’s outside doesn’t mean it’s safe. It could still get out of hand and spread to other areas of the yard or even reach your home if conditions are right.
- Don’t burn trash, cardboard, paper, plastic, or other items in your fire pit. Maybe you’ve already made two trips to the recycle bins this week and you’re thinking it’s easier to just burn those boxes in the fire pit. Don’t. When burned, paper, boxes, magazines, plastics, wrapping paper, wood pallets, particleboard, painted wood, and other trash can release toxins into the air. Plus, these materials can be a fire hazard, creating large, hot flash fires and floating ash.
- Stop feeding the fire an hour or so before you’re ready to hit the hay. Make a mental note to stop adding logs to the fire about an hour or so before you plan on heading indoors for the night. That way, the fire can slowly die down and putting it out will be easier on you.
- Keep the booze to a minimum. Sure, you want to have a good time with friends, but someone needs to be sober enough to take action if the fire pit becomes a fire hazard or something goes awry. So, have a designated sober safety person every time you light a fire in your fire pit.
- Keep a close eye on kids and pets. Watch pets and kids closely and teach them not to get too close to the hot flames or embers of the fire pit. You want everyone to safely have a good time, and that means looking out for your little ones and furry friends.
- Keep a fire extinguisher or hose nearby. Whenever you have a fire in the fire pit, you should have a hose or Class A fire extinguisher at the ready, just in case. As an added precaution, you may also want to keep a fire blanket handy.
Ready to enjoy your fire pit? Don’t forget to download your Fire Pit Safety Tips Checklist + Cheat Sheet for handy reference! Grab it here.
You might be surprised to know that there are CSIA Accepted Products that are safe to use in specified heating appliances. You will find that and more on the Homeowner Resources section of our website.