Skip to main content

Fire pit safety rules you need to be mindful of this summer

teenage friends toasting marshmallows around a fire pit
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Campfires are a staple of the perfect summer night. It’s just about in our DNA to gather around the open flames, share food and drinks, and swap stories late into the evening. Fireside fun isn’t without its risks, though. Even a small flame can pose a danger to small children and pets, and all it takes is a little bit of wind to turn a controlled fire into a backyard blaze.

This summer, keep your friends and family safe with these key bonfire safety tips.

Safe conditions for burning

Before stacking the firewood, monitor weather conditions and guidance from the state or local Fire Marshal. Do not start a fire during a burn ban or in high winds. Even when the weather is more moderate, keep an eye on the strength and direction of the wind, and consider any potential hazards before you ignite.

Set up the fire pit on a firm, level surface at least ten feet from buildings, trees, and other flammable items. Crucially, do not set it up on wooden decking or in an enclosed space. If you choose to set up your portable firepit over grass, be aware that heat will kill the grass beneath it. To protect your lawn, we recommend investing in a protective heat shield.

Finally, extinguish all the embers before heading inside for the night.

Allow plenty of open space

A shady area may be comfortable for entertaining, but watch out for low-hanging tree branches and shallow tree roots. These are very flammable, so make sure there is ample space and that any overhead branches are at least ten feet above the top of the fire pit.

On chillier nights, it’s natural to sit closer to the fire, but be sure to leave at least three feet of walking space between chairs and the fire pit. With larger groups, a cramped fire pit area can become dangerous, so as the group grows, the buffer between your guests and the flames should as well.

Keep it clutter-free

Fallen leaves, twigs, and pine needles are quick to light if they’re too close to the flame, and kids’ toys are notorious trip hazards. Before striking a match, clear the area of all flammable items and clutter.

Only burn clean fuel

Firewood is not created equal, so only use well-seasoned firewood that is dehydrated and ready to burn. Dry hardwoods like hickory, oak, maple, and birch produce little smoke and few sparks, while softwoods like pine, spruce, and fir provide the tell-tale snap, crackle, and pop of a bonfire. 

Do not attempt to start the fire with chemical accelerants or petroleum products, as these can make the flames difficult to control. Further, don’t burn pressure-treated lumber or other construction materials that produce noxious fumes. Instead, use natural materials and store-bought fire starters.

six friends sitting around a fire pit in the evening
Francisco Blanco/Shutterstock

No foreign objects

It’s hard to fight the desire to throw things in a fire. There’s certainly something cathartic about tossing garbage, food, and scrap paper into the flames. However, the fire pit is not an incinerator, and burning certain objects can release toxic fumes, heavy smoke, or accelerate the fire. Fight the urge, and keep all foreign objects out of the pit.

Maintain constant supervision

Wind and weather conditions can change rapidly, so someone must always be nearby the fire to extinguish it in case of emergency. In addition to monitoring the fire, someone also needs to keep an eye on children and pets who are often fascinated by fire and might find themselves burned by their curiosity.

Stay sober

Sharing a drink by the fire pit is a great way to relax and socialize, but drinking to excess leads to poor physical coordination and decision-making. Exercise moderation and remind your guests they can exercise fire-safe practices and still have a fun night.

Put it out at the end

Even if a firepit appears to have died out at the end of the night, embers tend to burn underneath the charcoal. Wind can reignite them or spread burning embers across the yard, potentially reaching something flammable. At the end of the night, put out the fire with plenty of cold water and use a shovel or rake to soak and stir the ashes until they are cool enough to touch with your bare hand.

Keep the ancient traditions alive this summer and gather around a firepit with the people you love. Share your favorite songs and stories,  spend time in peaceful silence, and, most importantly, stay safe.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
The climate change risks home buyers are sleeping on, according to Zillow
Analysis: This climate change risk is the only one that home buyers are worried about
analysis of climate change risks for home buyers houses in houston suburb flooded from hurricane harvey 2017

Climate change is shaping the world we live in. From record-high temperatures to worsening hurricanes and the increase in frequency and severity of wildfires, homeowners across the country are facing more and more threats to the safety of their homes. But that doesn’t mean home buyers are necessarily thinking about these threats. According to a recent analysis by Zillow, there’s really only one risk home buyers are heeding — flooding.

Home buyers are paying attention to flooding risks
Completed in conjunction with ClimateCheck, a climate risk data provider, the Zillow analysis found that flood risks are having a growing influence on home buyers. While home values in areas prone to flood risks continue to increase at a faster rate than other areas, these areas are also seeing an increase in both mortgage denials and potential borrowers deciding to withdraw their mortgage applications.

Read more
The pros and cons of ductless heating and cooling systems you need to know about
Are ductless heating and cooling systems right for your home? These are the pros and cons
ductless heating and cooling shutterstock 1023973342

Your heating and cooling system contributes to your overall comfort, so it's a crucial element of your home. It also tends to be the largest energy expense for most homes. It's important to be sure the system you use is both effective and economical. If you're wondering about ductless heating and cooling systems and whether they're right for your space, you've come to the right place. We'll discuss how they work, who they're ideal for, and all the pros and cons of those ductless heat and air units.

How do ductless heating and cooling systems work?
Most modern homes have duct-based HVAC systems that use an outdoor unit for air conditioning and a furnace for heating. Those units push heated or cooled air through a duct system that's set up throughout the house. Ductless heating and cooling systems, however, require no ducts and simply consist of a condensing unit outside the house and indoor units mounted on the wall or ceiling. The indoor units are responsible for distributing cooled or heated air into the home.

Read more
Make spring cleanup easy: The only home maintenance checklist you’ll ever need
spring tulips in front of a white house

The weather will soon be warmer and the days longer, but the effects of winter are still all around your home. That's why a spring home maintenance checklist is so useful. It can help keep you organized as you prepare your home for summer, and it can save you time and money on unnecessary repairs. Here are some commonly neglected items, both indoors and outdoors, that should be on every homeowner's spring checklist.

Outdoor spring home maintenance checklist
If you live in a region with cold weather, the exterior of your home takes quite a beating in the winter. The impact that snow, ice, and freezing temperatures have on the home's structure can make any homeowner nervous. The good news is, you can save yourself some big headaches if you're diligent about inspecting your home in the spring and fixing minor repairs before they become major problems.
Check for and repair damage to roofing
The weight of just a few inches of snow can do damage to your home's roof. Particularly when it comes to older roofs, one big snowfall in the beginning of winter can let in moisture or even cause a leak. Grab your ladder, safety equipment, and a buddy, and climb up to your roof to take a peek. Loose shingles, broken shingles, and popped nails will need to be replaced.
Check for and repair concrete and asphalt damages
Another woe of freezing weather is that it can damage concrete and asphalt. Examine your driveway, concrete stairs, walkways, and patios for any visible cracks. Even if the crack is minor, if water gets inside of it and freezes, it will expand the crack and require an even more expensive repair. It's a good idea to repair the crack while it's small.
Consider an exterior paint job
Spring is the perfect time to paint the exterior of your home since the temperature and humidity won't negatively impact your paint job. If the outside of your home could use a little TLC, put this project on the list for spring home maintenance.
Consider staining exterior wood surfaces
Cold weather and moisture make wood stain fade quickly. Check your decks, fences, and any other wooden outdoor surfaces to see if they are in need of a good staining.
Check window screens and caulking for damage
Just as your windows should be sealed well in the winter to keep the warm air in, they should also be tightly sealed in the summer to keep the cool air in. Examine the caulking around your window panes to be sure no cracks or gaps exist, and re-caulk if needed. Also, check window screens for tears and holes that might let in bugs when the windows are open.
Clean window exteriors and screens
Get all that grime off of your windows' exteriors after the long winter. It's not advised that you use a pressure washer for windows on upper levels since the force could easily break the glass. Instead, climb up on your ladder and clean those windows by hand. Use window cleaner and a squeegee to make them sparkle.

Read more