The weekend is finally almost here, and it is time to unwind and enjoy a cold beer (or your drink of choice) by the fire pit. One simple oversight could quickly turn an enjoyable evening filled with laughs and memories into a trip to the hospital or worse. I hope that you can learn from mine and other people’s mistakes. These 11 fire pit safety tips can help prevent a disaster and keep the good times rolling!
# 11: Don’t Get Drunk and Dance Around a Fire
This should go without saying, but it can be easy to forget about when you get a good buzz going. I have a very personal experience with this. One summer, my cousin and I were spending a week at the beach, and it was legal to have an open fire on the ground. We all had plenty to drink, and some girls that were with us were dancing around the fire. Sure enough, one of them slipped and fell right back into the hot coals. Thank God the fire wasn’t raging at the time. She was so intoxicated that she didn’t even feel it and kind of laughed it off until we saw that she was severely burned. She ended up in the hospital and her vacation was cut short. I want you to enjoy the time you spend around the fire, but it should be done with caution.
#10: Keep your Children Away
According to an article by NBC News, “Injuries from backyard fire pits on the rise, experts warn” the number of injuries related to outdoor fire pits nearly tripled from 1,900 in 2008 to 5,300 in 2017. Although it is important to note that fire pits grew in popularity during that time, I would venture a guess that the vast majority of these were preventable. One-quarter of these injuries were children under the age of five and a lot of the injuries occurred the next day when the coals were still hot. We will go further into this at #2. As a new father, this really hits right at home for me. Make sure the little ones stay a good distance away from the fire pit because it could take just a few seconds for tragedy to strike.
#9: Make Sure you Strategically Place your Pit
There is nothing more serious than making sure your fire pit is not near anything that could catch. A good rule of thumb is to keep the fire pit at least 10 feet away from the home and other flammable materials. There may be a certain distance that open flames are required to be away from your house by law, so make sure to check with your local government to ensure you follow these guidelines.
#8: Use a Fire Starter Instead of Accelerants
It can be tempting to use lighter fluid or another flammable liquid to get the fire going. That is an easy way to end up with some scorched eyebrows! If you use a fire starter like the one pictured above, you can prevent flare-ups that could lead to severe burns.
#7: Use the Spark Shield
Most fire pits come with a mesh screen that prevents burning wood and sparks from flying into the air. Although some people choose not to use them because they “take away from the feel of the fire pit”, they are making a huge mistake. They can prevent accidental injuries from flying sparks and accidental fires. There really is no excuse not to use it.
#6: Opt for a Gas or Propane Fire Pit Instead
There are some great benefits to choosing a gas lit fire pit over a wood burning fire pit. You don’t have to worry about having to buy or chop wood to burn, there is less clean up, and a lower chance of accidental fires to name a few. It is important to weigh the pros and cons before choosing to invest in a gas fire pit.
#5: Make Sure it is not too Windy
If the wind is forecast to be worse than usual, it may be better to hold off on a fire pit night. Wind fuels fire, and in the off chance that hot embers escape onto the ground, the fire can spread rapidly.
#4: Don’t Burn Paper or Trash
If you put something other than wood or charcoal into a fire pit, it could lead to an unintentional fire. When paper burns, it becomes flying embers that could easily ignite anything nearby. If you burn plastic, treated or painted lumber, or plywood, you could release toxic chemicals into the air that can make you sick.
#3: Keep an Extinguisher ready
This could be as simple as a ready water hose if you have one available. If you are camping or not near a water source, you should have a portable fire extinguisher like the one below handy just in case.
#2: Make Sure the Fire is out when you are Done
Because a good amount of fire injuries are the result of hot coals the day after a fire, it is important to make sure that the fire is fully extinguished when you are finished. I can’t tell you how many times we thought the fire was out at the end of the night, only to come out in the morning to see it still going! If you have a water hose, spray down the fire thoroughly. Then use a fire poker to move the remaining logs around to get all the hot coals underneath. It is also a good practice to drench a 5-foot circle around the fire pit to help prevent accidental fires.
#1: Have Fun!
I know this list can be a little daunting and seem like a lot to think about just for a fun night, but these fire pit safety techniques will ensure that the fun doesn’t have to stop!
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