Backyard Fire Pit Safety Tips

Summer is winding down, and fall is about to begin. It’s the time of the year that’s perfect for apple picking, pumpkin spice, and grabbing that sweater before you head out the door…just in case. But it’s also prime time for backyard campfires! S’mores roasting parties, hot dogs, and scary stories around the fire has been an American tradition for decades, and September and October are great months to get in as much of that as you can after the scorching heat of summer has passed and just before the Idaho winter weather really starts to kick in.

Many families have backyard fire pit areas, whether it’s a portable fire pit and a few dusty lawn chairs, or a neatly landscaped, custom built entertainment zone. Either way makes for memories to last a lifetime! But with any controlled fire comes the need for safety precautions, and backyard fires within city limits have their own set of safety rules that are important to be reminded of before you stock up on those marshmallows.

  • Take Note of Placement. Consider low-hanging tree branches, property lines, and proximity to structures like sheds, playhouses, and the home itself. The general rule of thumb is that a fire pit should be 10 feet away from all structures, including your home and neighboring homes and yards. Though not always possible, 25 feet is preferable. As mentioned, low-hanging tree branches are also a serious fire hazard if too close to an open flame. This goes for pergolas and patio coverings as well. Always put a portable firepit on a nonflammable surface, like stones or cement, and never on or near a wooden deck or directly on grass.
  • Have a Nearby Water Source. Whether you have quick access to a hose or choose to fill a bucket full of water and keep it close, always know where your nearest source of water is in the case of an emergency. All it takes is a single spark to start a fire, so having a quick solution can prevent a major disaster from occurring.
  • Watch the Size. Big bonfires are great on a beach, but in a backyard it’s best to keep your fire on the smaller, more manageable side of things. Be sure to always have an adult monitoring the fire to make sure it never gets too large – a fire, even one contained within a stationary firepit, should never be left unattended!
  • Burn the Right Wood. Some types of wood burn more quickly and get hotter than other types and are also more likely to pop and emit sparks, creating more of a fire hazard. Stay away from soft woods such as red pine, cedar, and fir and instead opt for hardwoods such oak, maple, or elm.
  • Don’t Use Gas or Lighter Fluid. Some people may not know that these chemicals remain in the firepit even after the fire has been put out. This can cause a major hazard the next time the firepit is in use.
  • Be Wary of the Weather. Wind and fire are not friends. While a slight breeze that comes around every few minutes may not be terrible (just keep an eye on the fire and use your best judgment), avoid lighting a fire on a windy day. You don’t want ash to be blown into your yard or onto your or your neighbors’ roofs.
  • Keep Your Distance. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), keep children and pets at least 3 ft. away from open flames. The NFPA applies this same rule to anything that could easily catch fire. This is also wise advice for adults; while it’s cozy to be warmed by the fire, there’s no need to ever get too close.
  • Candlelit Caution. Many outdoor entertainers choose to light their evening gatherings with candles. While nothing can ever truly replace the look, sound, and ambience created by a real candle, battery-operated candles do come pretty close. They look and feel like real wax candles (many are even made with a real wax coating) the light flickers just like a real flame. They’re safe and worry-free, especially if you’re hosting an event with children, pets, or alcohol.

We hope you enjoy your late summer and early fall evenings next to your cozy firepit, and encourage you to follow these tips to stay safe while you’re making memories with the people you love!