The Essentials of Fire Pit Safety
May 2, 2016
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fire pits caused nearly 3,700 grass and brush fires in 2012. Meanwhile, fire pits have become the most requested design feature in custom landscaping. Are you adding one to your backyard? Before you kick off a season of barbecues and outdoor parties, review these fire pit safety tips:
Research State and Local Laws
Unless primarily used for cooking, Massachusetts fire pits are subject to MassDEP (Department of Environmental Protection) open burning regulations. These include rules about fire size, location (distance from dwellings), and operator age; typically someone 18 or older must be tending the fire pit at all times. Twenty-two towns and cities in Massachusetts prohibit open burning altogether, which may include the use of a fire pit. To be sure your pit use is safe and legal, contact your local fire department for specific guidelines.
Position Your Fire Pit in a Safe Spot
What’s the safest place for a fire pit? On level ground, surrounded by non-combustible materials (stone or gravel), away from shrubs and trees with low-hanging branches. Don’t place your fire pit beneath a covered pergola or awning. You should also try to incorporate heavy, solid seating around your pit. Flimsy lawn chairs that can collapse and blow away are dangerous for obvious reasons.
Don’t Start Fires in Windy Weather
It doesn’t take much wind to cause dangerous sparks to fly. Contain burning embers by using a screen above the flames. For added safety, keep a pail of sand and/or a fire blanket nearby.
Only Burn Safe Materials
Safe firewood includes wood that has been seasoned for at least six months and is the appropriate type/length for your pit (i.e. not hanging over the edge). While it might seem convenient to burn stray tree branches and twigs, fresh wood (or “green” wood) contains a lot of water, which will smoke when ignited. Be aware that certain softwoods (pine, for example) also tend to crackle and pop when burned; stick to oak or hickory. Finally, never use treated lumber (which can release toxic fumes) or accelerants like gasoline/lighter fluid in your fire pit.
Extinguish Your Fires Completely
When the party’s over, douse fires completely, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep in mind that water may crack some ceramic or metal fire pits, and should not be used in those cases.
Following these rules for fire pit safety will help protect your landscaping investment, not to mention your home and loved ones.