Tips for Fire Pits and Cookout Safety

We are in the peak season for cookouts. This year, amid a global pandemic with restrictions on travel and bars and restaurants, getting together with friends and family in the backyard is that much more appealing.
There are few things more relaxing on a summer night than food and friends around your fire pit. But it can also be dangerous if proper safety measures aren’t followed. Here are a few tips to make sure you’re having fun and being safe.

  1. Position. Make sure your fire pit is 10 to 20 feet away from anything flammable. In other
    words, do not build your fire pit next to a porch or under a tree. The pit should be on and
    surrounded by materials that will not burn, such as rocks, patio blocks, bricks, or concrete
    blocks. Make sure chairs are far enough back. Before lighting it, check the wind and remove
    anything flammable downwind from the fire pit.
  2. Fuel. According to the EPA, only use seasoned dry wood. One expert recommends wood that
    has been seasoned for six months. Oak and hickory are ideal, since they produce fewer sparks.
  3. Lighting it. Avoid gasoline or lighter fluid and instead use a commercial fire starter stick with
    kindling, one former firefighter says.
  4. Extinguishing the fire. This is one of the most important steps. Make sure the fire is
    extinguished by thoroughly dousing it with water. The above former firefighter says to stir it
    with a shovel to be sure it’s completely out. It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher
    handy and a fire blanket to extinguish any errant sparks or fires that break out. If you don’t have
    them, having a bucket of sand and a hose nearby might be some good alternatives.
  5. Ash disposal. Note that ashes can still ignite a fire two to three days later. So let them cool off
    first. Consider soaking them in water and double checking them before final disposal. Don’t put
    them in anything that could catch fire, like a compost pile, cardboard box, or garbage bag.
    Instead, use a metal can that is fire resistant.
    Other things to keep in mind:
    ► Make sure you follow any local ordinances that might be in effect in your community.
    ► If you live in an area that is prone to forest or brush fires, take extra care.
    ► Don’t burn on days when the air quality is poor due to pollution.
    ► Be mindful of any neighbors whose homes or backyards may be close to your fire pit.
    Following all these tips will give you peace of mind that you’re being safe. After that, don’t
    forget to have fun and enjoy your summer cookouts!