How to Use a Fire Pit
There’s never a bad time to make use of your outdoor wood burning fire pit. Whether you’re looking to roast marshmallows with friends and family during the summer time or want to cozy up around the fire in the winter time, fire pits are a great year-round addition to make to your home.
But fires are dangerous and can be difficult to manage. That’s why we’re here to help you navigate the challenges you may face with your fire pit so you can make the most of your beautiful outdoor features.
Fire Pit Safety Tips
Safety first! Before you start your fire, you should be familiar with various safety measures and protocols.
1. Have a plan
Be prepared for the fire to get out of control. Even if you’re not by the woods and even if you have a fire pit that is well-designed to isolate from other flammable objects, you can never be too careful. Keep a bucket of water by you or ensure you have easy access to your home’s garden hose. If the fire gets out of control, douse it immediately.
2. Be familiar with your local fire codes
Every state, county, and city has its own fire codes and regulations. You should be familiar with these before you light your fire pit. For instance, the State of Virginia has a 4pm Burning Law that prohibits open air burning before 4pm from February 15-April 30. The law also requires that you supervise your fire at all times and completely extinguish it when you’re finished.
3. Check your surroundings
Make sure your fire won’t be near any hanging branches, grass, plants, or anything else that you don’t want to catch fire. Maintain close supervision of children and pets and make sure they don’t get too close to the fire.
4. Check the fire pit
Technically speaking, fire pits are not required to have drains. However, it’s wise to invest in a drainage system of some form so that water doesn’t pool in your fire pit when you extinguish the flames.
Additionally, you should check the fire pit for any trash, plastics, dirt, or debris that may have gotten into it since you last used it. Empty out any ashes that were left there before (to learn more about ash disposal, scroll down).
How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit
Important: Never use gasoline to start your fire! Starting your fire with gasoline puts it at great risk of getting out of control.
Preparing the Fire Pit
Prepare logs of various sizes. Make sure your logs are dry as wet logs have trouble catching fire and can also produce a good deal of smoke when lit. If you’re going to be cooking food, make sure not to use starter logs, as the chemicals contained in them are not safe for consumption.
Once you have your dry firewood, place the larger logs on the bottom of the pit in a criss-cross shape to allow room for the fire to breathe. Smaller logs should go on top of the bigger logs. Make sure to keep your stack at a manageable height for your fire pit so burning logs don’t roll out of the pit!
Softwood logs are better for getting a fire started, but they don’t last as long. If you have softwood logs (douglas fir, redwood, pine, cedar, larch, etc.), they’re best used to get the fire started.
Place tinder and kindling at the top of your pile. If you’d like, you can place balled up newspaper scattered throughout the fire to act as a conduit.
Lighting the Fire
Use a match to light the fire. You can use multiple matches at different spots in the structure if you have a larger fire pit. If you’ve built your fire pit properly using the correct types of logs and kindling, you shouldn’t have much difficulty getting it started.
How to Keep a Fire Pit Going
As your fire burns down, you should have larger logs at the ready to replace them. There are many different types of wood that are excellent for maintaining a fire. Seeing as hardwoods burn longer than softwoods, you should consider using logs from trees of hickory, ash, oak, cherry, maple, and the like. Each type of log has different qualities, so you should familiarize yourself with them if you want your fire to really shine.
How to Put Out a Fire Pit
There are a couple of ways to put out your fire. For starters, you could allow the fire to run out naturally. If you do this, make sure there are no smoldering embers remaining at the bottom. Give the ashes time to cool.
If you’re looking to put out your fire quickly, dump water on the flames until they extinguish entirely. You’ll also want to continue pouring water over the pit until you don’t hear sizzling sounds anymore. Your ashes should be quiet and completely cooled off before you leave the pit unattended.
What to Do With Fire Pit Ashes
In the State of Virginia, you are required by law to place your ashes in a metal or ceramic container filled with sand. The container must remain away from any building or flammable object until it is taken to the landfill.
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