Sitting around a backyard fire pit is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening with family and friends.
Without the proper precautions, however, it can also be quite dangerous.
So before you get out the graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, check out these guidelines to make sure you won’t get burned by an unsafe fire.
Decide what style is best for your yard.
You’ve got plenty of options when it comes to fire pits — from ready-made metal bowls to the classic, do-it-yourself pit ringed with rocks. And they don’t even have to burn wood. Gas models can be more convenient and may actually reduce the risk of a fire blazing out of control.
Make sure you follow the law.
As the popularity of fire pits has grown, some municipalities are creating new regulations around their use. And general burn bans are often in effect to protect air quality. Check with your city or county to determine whether you can use a fire pit, along with the rules you need to follow.
Take a look around.
Make sure there aren’t any flammable materials near your fire pit or flammable surfaces, such as a wooden deck, under it. Your pit should be at least 10 feet away from any structure. Keep a fire extinguisher or garden hose nearby in case of emergency; you can also use a bucket of sand to put out your fire. Finally, check the wind direction before you start a fire, and make sure kids and pets remain at a safe distance.
Build a safe fire.
Only use seasoned hardwood if possible, as softer woods, such as cedar, can spark and pop. Never burn garbage, leaves or paper, and don’t use fluids — even lighter fluid — to start or restart your fire. If you have a metal fire pit, use the included screen, and don’t overload it.
Make sure it’s out.
Remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. Spread the ashes out and let them cool. Pour some water (or your sand) over them — but don’t leave just yet. Always give it a little extra time to ensure the fire is totally out and won’t flare up. Besides, it’s still a nice night out, right?
Memories are often made while sitting around a fire. With a little common-sense preparation, you’re sure to keep those memories great.