As this blog is being written, the National Weather Service (NWS) expects winds gusting to 45 mph today. Between dry air and strong winds, there is a high fire danger across the Kansas City metro, and a Red Flag Warning is in effect for western parts of the area. It’s not the first time the NWS has alerted us to a high wind and high fire danger, and it won’t be the last.
It is the perfect time for a refresher on how to safely start, burn and extinguish your backyard fire pit though. After all, cool, spring evenings practically scream for inviting friends and family over for a night around the fire pit. Whether your fire pit is newly installed or you’ve had one in your outdoor living space for years, you can never be too careful about safety. One “I’ll do it later” or “It’ll be fine” can put you, family, friends, neighbors, homes and property at risk.
Preparing Your Fire Pit
Whether you have a gas, propane or wood-burning fire pit, much of the preparation is the same. If you installed your fire pit yourself, some of these checklist items are simply double checking. If you went the professional fire pit installation route, your installer took care of them for you, but it’s worth a look around in case something has changed about your home or yard.
Look around your fire pit…
- Is your fire pit sitting on an even surface? Yards and concrete settle over time and a shift can cause a fire pit to tilt. Possibly, the uneven surface is more a danger to humans who could trip near the fire pit.
- Is your fire pit still at least 10 feet away from any structures, such as your house, garage, trees, fences, outdoor living furniture, etc.?
- Did you look up and make sure there is nothing overhead, like trees, a covered patio or a canopy?
- Has any grass or landscaping grown up, around and too close to the fire pit?
How to Safely Use a Natural Gas and Propane Fire Pit
Gas and propone fire pits are the easiest to start and extinguish. It’s a matter of turning on and turning off the fuel source. Depending on your fire pit, it takes a flick of a switch or a turn of a knob.
As long as a gas or propane fire pit was correctly installed on a flat, fire-proof surface and nothing has been placed close or grown too near it, starting and extinguishing it is a breeze. Remember to have fire gloves nearby to safely handle hot parts of the fire pit. And, never leave a gas or propane fire pit unattended, or leave children or pets alone near one—no matter how small or contained your fire pit is. Fire and hot components can be a magnet for touch, on purpose or by accident.
How to Safely Use a Wood-Burning Fire Pit
Before lighting a wood-burning fire pit, look around and ask the same questions listed above for gas and propane fire pits. Once you’ve made sure it’s all clear, use the following tips:
- Use firewood that’s been seasoned at least six months.
- Don’t burn wood used for construction, such as plywood or composite woods, which can release toxic fumes while burning.
- Choose seasoned hardwoods, like oak or hickory, to avoid embers flying out. Softwoods, like birch and pine, tend to spark and crackle when burned.
- Cut logs so they fit inside the fire pit without hanging over or off the side.
- Set fire to tinder to start a fire, and never use lighter fluid or gasoline to start or keep your fire pit going.
- To extinguish a wood-burning fire pit, use a fire-safe tool to spread out the wood and ashes. Spray them with water or cover them with sand.
- Never let a fire pit burn itself out. Make sure it’s completely extinguished before leaving or going to bed for the night.
If you have any questions about operating your gas, propane or wood-burning fire pit, take a look at the owner’s manual. In general, we recommend reading through it to learn specific tips or manufacturer care and usage instructions. If your fire pit is installed by Complete Home Concepts, your installer will give you an overview of safe operation.
What to Keep Near Your Fire Pit
While not necessary, consider investing in the following items to keep near your fire pit for better peace of mind.
- A fire pit screen is helpful in keeping any embers from flying out of the fire pit, landing on another surface, and starting a fire there.
- A container filled with sand and/or a garden hose connected to a faucet for quick extinguishing. Water can damage some components in gas or propane fire pits, so ask our team or read the owner’s manual to make sure you use the correct method to put out your fire pit. Another option is a dry-chemical fire extinguisher with a Class B and C or multipurpose rating.
- A fire blanket for emergencies. You can cover a fire with it for fast extinguishing or throw it on embers that land outside the fire pit.
Complete Home Concepts is happy to help if you ever have a question about servicing, maintaining, or using your fire pit. Get in touch.