Outdoor fire-pit safety

Nothing beats sitting in your back yard on a cool summer night listening to the crackle of a fire, watching the flames dance, sipping a cool drink and laughing with friends and family. The fun of a camping trip right in your own back yard! However, a wood-burning fire also requires the most attention and the most important tip is to keep your fire small; the bigger the fire the greater the risk. Make sure it is safe so that you are free to enjoy it without the worry of an unforeseen accident by following these tips:

n The fire pit should be at least 10 feet away from any structure or combustible surface, in an enclosed, contained area (chiminea, fire bowl or fire pit). Do not overload the container and keep it on a flat surface in an open area. Do not set it up underneath trees, buildings, roofs or patio covers.

n Always check the weather forecast to avoid windy conditions that can blow embers. Check to make sure there are not any burn bans or burn ordinances that might be in effect. Pick up leaves, dry vegetation and other combustible materials in a 10-20-foot circle around the fire to ensure the fire doesn’t accidentally spread.

n Always use a spark screen so embers and sparks cannot escape the container, especially if children and pets are present.

n Always have a container of water nearby, a fire extinguisher or a garden hose on standby before starting the fire.

n Keep all flammable liquids far away from the fire pit as extreme heat can cause the liquids to ignite. Don’t try to start a fire with gasoline or lighter fluid. This is extremely dangerous and flammable liquids are very unpredictable. Use kindling and build your fire up slowly so that it is always under control and manageable. Never use any kind of waste materials or pressure-treated wood in a fire. These items produce harmful black smoke and chemicals. Only use seasoned wood or charcoal.

n The best way to extinguish a fire is to spread the ashes over a large surface area and let them cool down for a little bit. Then take a container of water and gently pour it over the ashes, but monitor it. Don’t just throw some water on it and go to bed as it can flare up overnight. Never leave a fire to die out on its own.

n Be sure to protect yourself. Use a poker or log-grabber to move and arrange logs and never try to move a fire treatment that isn’t cold. Keep a first-aid kit nearby to treat minor burns.

n Liquid-propane (LP) and natural-gas (NG) fire treatments require less attention and tending and are more convenient and easy to light, but that doesn’t mean that you should be any less diligent and cautious. Every time you intend to use a fire treatment you should check all the hoses, valves and attachments to make sure there are no leaks or holes before you introduce any kind of flame or spark for ignition. Check the pilot light to make sure it hasn’t been blown out and that combustible gases aren’t filling your containment area. Always know how and where to shut of your LP or NG supply in case of an emergency.

n Never leave any fire unattended. Even the smallest fire can quickly grow into a large one without supervision.

n Do not clean out the fire area by putting coals or wood in a plastic or paper bag, then throwing the bag away. This is a major fire hazard. Wait 24 hours and douse with water before disposing of any ash and other remnants.

n If you have a fire that escapes your fire pit or are burned, immediately call 911.

Protect yourself, your family and your home by using safe fire-tending practices and a little common sense. Stay safe!


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