Warm Up Cool Nights with Outdoor Fires
by Alex Witkowski
Outdoor fires are a popular, and warm, way to warm up cool nights. My family in particular loves nothing better than a warm fire around our fire pit when friends and family are visiting, and we have no shortage of wood and marshmallows stashed for these spur of the moment occasions. If you’re new to hosting outdoor fires, here are tips to help you get started.
HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR OUTDOOR FIREPLACE—BUY OR BUILD?
If you don’t own a “container” for your fire, there are a couple options to choose from: purchase one, such as a metal fire pit, a fire bowl, fire cage or chiminea, from a local home/hardware store, such as Lowe’s or the Home Depot, or build a fire pit yourself. The sales representatives at these stores will help you pick out your perfect pit or point you in the right direction and give you tips if you plan to build one.
GIVE YOUR FIRE PIT A CHECKUP
If you already have something that serves as an outdoor fireplace, you’re one step ahead. But before you get the fire rolling, inspect your fire pit/bowl/chiminea for any rust, if it has metal parts, or cracks to make sure the apparatus is still in usable condition. If it’s an in-ground pit, inspect the setup to make sure it’s still a sound structure.
CHECK THE WEATHER AND LOCAL LAWS BEFORE STRIKING A MATCH
Always remember before building a fire to consider the weather conditions and local ordinances. Attempting to light a fire on a really windy day could have an unfortunate ending. Burning material can get blown into dry debris or worse, a house. And burning in a backyard against regulations can have financial consequences.
To reduce the risk of a sudden gust ruining your fun (the kind even weather can’t predict):
- Place your fire pit out in the open on a flat surface at least 10 feet away from any potential hazard. Outdoor fire hazards include trees and low hanging branches, dry debris such as leaf piles and twigs, other close greenery and wooden structures such as homes and pavilions.
- Pick up leaves and twigs close to the site beforehand.
- Keep a bucket of water or hose nearby as a safety precaution.
To keep up with burn bans, contact your local fire department.
HOW TO GET THE FIRE STARTED
A fire should start small by using paper, twigs or starter logs that can be bought from local stores. Gradually build up the fire with slightly larger pieces of wood. Logs or branches should never hang over the edge or outside of the fire pit.Cut large branches into smaller pieces before using them to fuel your fire.
Also, never use an accelerant, such as gasoline or lighter fluid, to get the fire started. It is a dangerous practice, burns off quickly and will not sustain the fire.
BEFORE YOU GO…
Never leave your fire unattended. Even an enclosed fire burning apparatus can lose hot embers. Have an adult monitor the fire, especially if there are small children around. When the fire dies down, put it out by pouring water over the embers.
Even after the water, the fire may not be completely put out. The US Fire Administration states that 16% of outdoor fires are attributed to hot or smoldering objects, such as hot embers or ash. Keep an eye on the extinguished fire until the embers stop steaming. If it’s a stubborn fire, use sand to help extinguish it. (Just remember to clean out the sand before the next burning.)
HAVE SOME FUN!
Fire pits are great centers for gatherings and hangouts. Following these guidelines will help you to have safe and enjoyable experiences. Grab some friends, marshmallows and roasting sticks, or just a chair to relax in and take advantage of this fantastic season in the great outdoors.