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Top 10 Fire Pit Mistakes You Should Know About

Top 10 Fire Pit Mistakes You Should Know About

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If you have a fire pit in your backyard, you can enjoy cozy nights with your family and friends. You can also use the fire pit to cook rustic meals and bond with your kids while making smores.

A fire pit can add value, ambiance, and function to your home too. However, it comes with dangerous downsides.

According to the USFA, 1,800 outdoor fires happen every day. These accidents lead to over 875 injuries, 50 deaths, and $154 million in damages each year!

Because of this, it’s best to learn about the top 10 fire pit mistakes people make. Here’s everything you should know about safely enjoying a fire pit!

Mistake 1: Making the Fire Pit Too Big

It’s easy to make a homemade fire pit, but many don’t realize the difficulty of controlling a fire. To stay safe, the smaller it is, the better.

Your fire pit should be no bigger than three feet wide and two feet tall. Moreover, you should carefully consider the space you have and the type of fire pit you should get.

Grand View Research conducted a market analysis and found that 40% of Americans use classic fire pits.

While this type of fire pit is great, it takes up a lot of floor area. Small fire pit bowls or tabletop pits may be the better option for those with limited space.

Mistake 2: Placing the Fire Pit in the Wrong Area

Fire can spread quickly, so you should place your fire pit away from any structures or flammable materials.

According to the Falcon Fire Protection District, all classic fire pits must be 25 feet from buildings or vegetation. For portable fire pits with lids, you may keep them 15 feet away from structures.

On top of this, you should consider how strong the wind is around your area.

This is because wind can transport burning materials from the fire pit. What’s more, smoke and fumes from fire pits are airborne hazards.

Lastly, consider the accessibility of your fire pit. In an emergency, you should be able to run to the fire to extinguish it without obstructions!

Mistake 3: Failing to Clean a Fire Pit Regularly

You can avoid many accidents simply by keeping your fire pit debris-free.

Fire pits should always be clean to burn properly. Leftover ash and burnt wood can disrupt the airflow within a fire pit.

As such, having adequate hair holes is crucial for fire pits since they let oxygen into the system.

Without ventilation, you can’t get a proper fire. This leads to cases of incomplete combustion and the production of dangerous carbon monoxide.

How to Clean a Fire Pit

To clean a fire pit, you must ensure that it’s at room temperature. This can take up to 12 hours after you put the fire out.

Next, scoop the debris out with a shovel and place the ash in a bin. You may also use a handheld vacuum cleaner.

Finally, wash the outside of the fire pit with a soft sponge and detergent. Doing this will help you remove any food residues that may cause damage!

Mistake 4: Using a Broken or Faulty Fire Pit

Another problem with failing to clean a fire pit is that the debris can cause damage.

Ash and burnt wood can get into drainage clogs. As a result, your fire pit is more likely to rust and break when rainwater pools inside.

Unfortunately, if your fire pit uses propane gas, it could explode if it’s broken.

To avoid this issue, you do periodic maintenance on your fire pit. Always check it for damage and protect it from the elements.

If you do this, your fire pit will last longer, and you can prevent accidents from using broken fire pits.

Mistake 5: Burning the Wrong Materials

One of the most common mistakes people make when using fire pits is burning the wrong fuel! This is crucial for your safety since burning the incorrect materials can have consequences.

In 2022, a woman from Florida passed away after suffering burns from her fire pit. She used gas to relight the fire, the flames traveled up the stream, and the can exploded.

To add to this, using cardboard, magazines, and newspapers as fuel is a no-go. Treated wood, cloth, painted wood, and shipping palettes are dangerous fuels.

The chemicals on these materials are toxic when they burn, and some can even cause a sudden fire!

The Best Fuels for Fire Pits

Instead of using inappropriate fuels, here’s a list of materials you can use.

  • Bioethanol: Bioethanol and other gel fuels are less likely to produce smoke and ash.
  • Charcoal: Charcoal has a slow and steady flame that’s easy to control.
  • Hardwood: Fruitwood, oak, birch, or maple less than 16 inches long are ideal.

Mistake 6: Forgetting to Contain Sparks

Sometimes soft wood, like pine and cedar, can burst and fling sparks around the fire pit. This is hazardous because the sparks can cause large fires if you have flammable materials near the pit.

If you don’t have a spark screen, you can prevent this from happening by using a stable fire pad under the pit. Sand, gravel, lava rocks, and even bricks are perfect for heat protection.

Clearing the surroundings is a must, and it’s best to remove plants near the area. Fire pit seating must be at least four to five feet away.

Lastly, you should avoid wearing baggy and flammable clothes, like nylon sweaters, near a fire pit. Your clothes may brush the fire without you realizing it!

Mistake 7: Leaving a Fire Pit Unattended

I can’t stress this one enough. You should never leave your fire pit unattended.

Unattended fire pits are a danger, especially to children and pets. In 2017, there was an incident where a six-year-old fell into an open fire pit.

According to NBC News, a quarter of injuries related to fire pits happen to children under the age of five. Most parents say that the accident happens only within seconds of turning their backs.

Studies also show that fire-pit-related burns are one of the leading causes of preventable injuries in children.

Mistake 8: Not Having a Fire Extinguisher Ready

When you have an open fire at home, you should always have a means to stop it. Here are some of the ways to put a fire out in emergencies:

  • Foam Fire Extinguishers: Foam fire extinguishers are portable, and you can keep them in a reachable place. They’re ideal for stopping wood fires.
  • Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers: Never use water on fires caused by gasoline, as this could spread the flames. A carbon dioxide extinguisher is better in this case.
  • Fire Blankets: Placing a fire blanket over the flames can cut off its oxygen supply and stop the fire.

Extinguishing a Fire in Non-Emergencies

Consumer Reports says pouring a bucket of water into a fire pit will form a crust on the wood. The water will run off, and you may not extinguish the fire completely.

Instead of dousing it with a bucket of water, spread the charcoal and ash as thin as possible. After this, take a garden hose and set it to a fine mist nozzle.

The best way to extinguish a fire pit is to spray the embers with water.

Mistake 9: Calling the Fire Department Too Late

The right time to use a fire extinguisher is when the fire begins. However, if it gets out of hand, you must call the fire department!

Never fight a fire if you’re unsure of its cause or if you don’t have the right extinguisher. There are times when accidents happen because people try to put a fire out themselves.

Always check that there are no obstructions around the fire pit so you can escape easily. If your instincts say you should run, follow it!

Mistake 10: Ignoring Local Fire Guidelines

Before you build a fire pit, you should get clearance from your local authorities. Each area has its guidelines for fire pits.

In some cities, you don’t need to get a permit for a fire pit less than three feet in diameter. Still, most have rules you should follow.

For instance, in Ohio, fire pits need to be 50 feet away from homes. If a neighbor objects, you must extinguish it immediately.

Following the regulations set by the municipality planning office will keep you and your community safe!

Final Thoughts

There are many fire pit mistakes to avoid.

First, you must follow your local guidelines when building a fire. Build it at a safe distance, and have the correct fire pit materials for your space.

Next, always use the right types of fuel, and have fire extinguishers appropriate for your fuel type. Never leave a fire unattended either, especially if you have pets and children.

Lastly, conduct maintenance on your fire pit and have the right tools for preventing sparks. If you avoid these mistakes, you can safely enjoy nights around the fire pit with your family!


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