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fire pit safety

Whether you already have a fire pit or want to build one, don’t forget about the importance of safety. An enjoyable, cozy fire can quickly become an out-of-control blaze in seconds.

This is the peak season for outdoor fires and related injuries1 and the number of fire pit related injuries have been on the rise for both children and adults over the past five years2 so now is the time to make safety a priority.

What are some basic rules you should always follow?

Setting up the fire pit3

  • Clear leaves and needles in the “immediate zone” (up to 5 feet) around your house and fire pit
  • Clean house gutters
  • Move any flammable material, such as mulch and firewood piles, away from the pit area.
  • Remove anything flammable stored underneath decks or porches.
  • Make sure to check with your local city and county authorities3 to observe all local laws regarding fires and fire pit construction.
  • Before you start a fire, check the local weather forecast. Forego burning if it’s windy, as the wind can make it hard to light the kindling and could blow sparks to surrounding brush or structures. Also, always check the direction of the wind before you start your fire4.

Positioning your fire pit5

Whether you have a portable fire pit or one that’s permanently installed, the location is a major key to safety.

  • Make sure the fire pit is at least10 feet away from any structure or neighboring yard, but 25 feet is preferred6.
  • Do not position a fire pit under a covered porch or low hanging tree branches.
  • Always place a fire pit on a non-flammable surface, such as patio blocks or concrete.
  • Do not put a fire pit on a wooden deck or directly on grass.

Operating your fire pit

  • Dry, seasoned wood is your best bet for a good fire. Avoid using soft woods like pine as they can throw off sparks more easily than hardwoods such as oak.7 Logs should be cut so their length is less than three-quarters the diameter of the pit.
  • Avoid burning construction materials such as plywood, MDF, pressure-treated boards and posts, or wood pallets8. Toxic fumes are emitted when these materials are burned as they can be treated with a variety of chemicals.
  • No matter how well constructed the fire pit and the fire, and regardless of weather conditions, you should always keep a shovel and water at hand. The water can be used to put out the fire and the shovel can be used to smother the flames by throwing dirt on them.
  • Be sure to teach children to “stop, drop, and roll” in the event that their clothes catch fire.

General tips

  • Never leave a fire pit unattended, and never leave children or pets unattended near a fire.
  • A wire mesh cover can help to keep embers inside and help prevent children or pets from falling in.9
  • Keep the fire burning gently yet steadily by limiting the amount of fuel you put in the fire.
  • Fires should be kept under three feet in diameter and two feet high10
  • Be careful with what you wear; loose-fitting or flammable clothing should be avoided as much as possible.
  • Never use lighter fluid or gasoline to start a fire in a fire pit.



  1. National Fire Sprinkler Association,
  2. National Fire Sprinkler Association,
  4. Bob Vila,
  5. Mother Earth News,
  7. Bob Vila,
  8. Bob Vila,
  9. Mother Earth News,

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