Relaxing around a fire pit — fireflies in the air and pie in your bellies — is one of the best ways to end a summer barbecue. They’re also a perfect addition to your outdoor entertaining space.
But the key to having fun is staying safe. Outdoor patio heater and fire pit injuries tripled from 2006 to 2012, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Enjoy your fire with friends, family and peace of mind this summer.
Eight safety guidelines to follow:
1. Choose the right location.
The first step to fire pit safety? Finding a level surface in an open area. Your fire pit should be at least 10 feet from your home, your neighbor’s yard and any plants. Overhanging branches, wooden decks, or fences are a big no-no. That means fire pits should never be beneath canopies, below covered patios or under trees.
2. Pick your fuel.
If you’re going for a nostalgic fire pit, a wood-burning pit is the way to go — enjoy the kindling and the crackling. Want fire on demand? Gas or propane pits offer a quick-lighting option. And, now, many store-bought fire pits allow you to switch between wood and gas.
3. Use the right wood.
Make sure to use seasoned hard woods. Construction materials like plywood can release toxic fumes, white soft woods can spark and pop excessively. Only use wood that’s short enough to fit entirely in your pit, so it doesn’t stick out.
4. Don’t use fuel accelerants.
Like with fireplaces, using fuel accelerants like lighter fluid is extremely unsafe. Not only can they release toxic fumes, but they can start an explosion or cause your fire to grow too quickly.
5. Buy and use a screen.
Fire pit screens are one of the best way to keep your fire in the pit. You’ll protect your guests from errant embers and sparks that could ignite dry material like clothing. Choose a screen of heat-resistant metal like cast iron or steel.
6. Always check the weather report and burn status.
Windy days are dangerous for fires, as it can unexpectedly spread. Before heading out to the fire pit, check with your county’s air quality department. When pollution levels are high, this government body may issue “no burn” restrictions to limit particulate matter and carbon dioxide levels.
7. Be smart around fire.
You wouldn’t leave your children around an unattended pool, right? Always have an adult present when the fire is burning. Don’t wear flowy clothing that could flutter into the flame. Don’t drink excessively when burning a fire. And never leave a fire pit burning overnight.
8. Alert your insurance agent.
You may need to disclose your fire pit for your homeowners insurance policy. Reach out to your Farm Bureau agent to make sure your yard and home are properly protected.