How to Use an Outdoor Fire Pit

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Use your fire pit carefully and cautiously for a safe and enjoyable experience.
Use your fire pit carefully and cautiously for a safe and enjoyable experience. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Warm and inviting, a fire pit makes a backyard focal point. While the flames are mesmerizing, with the smokey smell and crackling sounds, a fire pit's warmth also makes it possible for you to begin your outdoor entertaining a little earlier each spring, and extend it into the fall. As with any home accessory or appliance that involves fire, the utmost in caution is required.

Things You'll Need

  • Broom
  • Hose
  • Cardboard, newspaper or commercial fire-starting sticks
  • Kindling
  • Matches
  • Firewood
  • Fire poker with hook
  • Fireproof mitt

Place your fire pit 15 feet or more from your home, garage, storage building, or any structure that could catch fire. Don't place it under a covered porch or under low, overhanging tree branches. Don't place it on a wooden deck unless you have a layer of bricks, flat stones, or a heat-protective fire pit pad to go underneath the fire pit.

Sweep away dried leaves, dried grass, twigs, or any other flammable debris from your fire pit's general area. Attach your hose to a working faucet that's long enough to reach from the faucet to your fire pit and can be turned on within a moment's notice. Fill a bucket or other large container with water and place it near your fire pit. Use several smaller containers if a large container is too heavy to lift once it's full of water.

Place the metal grate on the fire bowl, and then place a piece of crumpled newspaper, cardboard or a commercial fire-starting stick on top of the grate. Place a small stack of kindling on top, and use a match to light the newspaper, cardboard or fire-starting stick underneath the kindling. Once the kindling catches fire, place a few pieces of firewood on top of it. Don't use kerosene, lighter fluid, gasoline or any other flammable liquid to start your fire.

Place the fire pit cover over the fire. The cover prevents sparks from popping out and burning people or objects.

Remove the cover and carefully add more firewood as needed to keep the fire burning. Don't over-stack or allow the fire to grow bigger than the bowl. Always replace the cover. Use a fireplace poker with a hook, a fire-proof mitt, or both when opening and closing the cover.

Spread the coals out as much as possible when you're ready to put the fire out. Use a shovel or fireplace poker for this task, and proceed with caution. Carefully pour water over all coals. Extinguish all embers, especially before leaving your home or before going to bed for the night.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep a phone handy at all times when using your fire pit, in case you need to call 911.
  • Monitor weather conditions for your area. Don't use your fire pit during a dry spell or burn ban. Don't use your fire pit on a windy day, as the hot embers can blow away and land on a combustible surface. Drink responsibly or not at all when using your fire pit. Don't let children or animals within three feet of a burning fire. Never leave children or animals unattended when using your fire pit. Never leave a burning fire unattended.

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