There's nothing like curling up around the fireplace to stay warm on a cold winter's night - but what about those long summer evenings? Like indoor fireplaces, an outdoor fire pit can provide hours of fun and enjoyment (and as an added bonus, s'mores). But it's important to consider the location and the safety issues that go along with it ahead of time.
Location, Location, Location
First, take a good look around. Your planned location should be at least six feet away from any flammable structure, namely your home, deck, overhangs, landscaping, etc. Never use one on a wooden deck unless you have a layer of bricks, flat stones, or heat-protective pad to go underneath. Sweep the area clear of dried leaves, dried grass, twigs, and another debris that could potentially ignite. It's also a good idea to take wind into consideration when choosing the location - an open, windy space means flames are likely to whip around or be blown out. An area that's at least partially protected will make it easier to enjoy your fire in peace.
|It's important to give careful consideration to where you'll position your fire pit and the safety issues involved with using it.|
Making the World Go Round
Once you've nailed down the perfect location, consider how you want your guests to interact. You may want to position your fire pit in an out-of-the-way place in your backyard for cozy, late-night gatherings. Or you may want it more centrally located to encourage conversation and interaction between your guests. Placing easily moveable chairs, stools, or benches around the outside will make it easy for guests to enjoy the warmth from a safe distance.
Once you have it positioned, it's time to light up. If you're burning wood, it's important to make sure you don't overload it. Using too much wood can cause the flames to grow too high - something you definitely don't want to have to deal with. Place a piece of crumbled newspaper or cardboard on top of the grate and cover with a small stack of kindling. Then light the newspaper or cardboard underneath. Once your kindling catches fire, stack a few pieces of firewood on top of it in a tepee shape, being careful not to overfill. Make sure to never use pressure-treated wood - it can emit toxic flames. You can tell if wood is pressure-treated by its green tint. Most models designed for burning real wood come with a mesh screen designed to keep sparks and any flammable debris from floating out of the bowl. Once the flame has burned down a bit, be sure to use the mesh cover to keep things safe.
Make sure to never leave a pit unattended and always fully extinguish your fire when you're finished. Despite what cartoons would have you believe, a crackling fire shouldn't be extinguished with bucket of water. When you're done enjoying your roaring blaze, make sure to have a bucket of sand, dirt, or cold ashes on hand, along with a shovel or metal rake to spread them around. Move partially burned logs away from each other so they begin to cool and use the sand or dirt to cool and smother the coals. If you're using a gas model, simply turn off the gas to extinguish your flames.