Safe Backyard Fire Tips

It was 72F this morning, a bit chilly on the bike ride but I'm not complaining. We've been waiting six months for some cool mornings and evenings to give us some relief from all this sunshine in FL. One of my favorite things about cool Autumn weather is having fires in our chiminea in the evening. The rich, woodsy aroma of a campfire brings back wonderful memories of being outdoors. One of the attractions of having a backyard fire pit is the adventurous, risky behavior we get to enjoy - right in our own yard! And I'm not kidding, backyard fire pits can be hazardous if you don't follow a few simple safety precautions:
  • Location, Location, Location - choose your placement of your fire pit, chiminea or grill carefully. Be sure it is not too close to house siding, wood deck railings, patio umbrellas, awnings or overhead lines. It's also important to place it somewhere out of the normal traffic pattern of the household so when things start to get wild and crazy, the fire is not in the way of people running with scissors.
  • Weather - before you decide to have a fire, check the weather to be sure there are not bans on burning in drought areas, or that those 20 mph winds won't blow sparks all over the dead leaf pile you just raked up.
  • Kid Zone - if children will be around your fire be sure to take a minute to warn them of the safe zone of about 3 ft around the fire pit. No playing with airborne objects or throwing balls near the fire.
  • Tools - be sure to use long tools to manage your fire or any food preparation. When you are not using that poker, store it safely out of the traffic path. If you are cooking marshmallows use a fresh stick that won't burn up and frighten a young child into hurling that burning chunk of sugar into your mom's lap.
  • Dress for Success - keep those warm blankets a safe distance from the fire, and avoid loose fitting flyaway clothing. I always make sure my jacket or over shirt is not nylon which will melt if a sparks flies on it. Cotton is best to wear around the fire.
  • Burning Materials - we always build our fire starting with crumbled up newspaper balls, then some dried leaves that flame nice, a layer of tinder or small branches, then some splints of wood tipped up like a tee pee, with a couple smaller logs placed up around the edge. Pine and Cedar are wonderfully aromatic woods - but they tend to pop and spark more than Oak. Usually we empty most of the ashes from a previous fire but leave some for no reason that I know. Anyway, some people burn scrap lumber but this may give off fumes from chemicals used on the wood. My sister always starts hers with a duraflame log and then a few oak logs make a tee pee over the chemical log - no kindling or tinder or paper. It works great, but could be expensive if you want a frugal fire.
  • Emergency Preparedness - of course no one would ever have a fire without safety measures in place, would they? We keep a 5 gal pail of wood bark nearby that we could dump out in an emergency, and then fill with water from the nearby pool. If you don't have a pool, be sure to locate your household fire extinguisher and have it handy. If you haven't a fire extinguisher (shame on you - get one now!), at least unwind the hose and have it nearby in you need it.
Now, you're ready-  Light that fire!

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