Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock
Backyard fire pits have been rated the most popular outdoor design feature by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Who doesn’t love sitting around a fire with family and friends? But, they come with a warning.
According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission as reported by NBC News, at least 5,300 injuries related to fire pits or outdoor heaters were treated at emergency rooms in the U.S in 2017. That’s almost three times more than the 1,9000 injuries reported in 2008.
Of the victims, a quarter were under the age of 5, with many burned the next day when abandoned coals are still hot. This makes fire pit safety of the utmost importance.
Safety begins by choosing the right site. Especially for portable pits, be sure the ground is level. Ensure fires are located at least 10 to 20 feet away from any plants or overhanging trees, nearby buildings, building overhangs and partially enclosed spaces of your home. If you’re in a fire-prone area, surround your pit with non-combustible materials, like crushed stone, brick or sand.
If your fire pit has a screen, always use it when burning. A bucket of sand or garden hose nearby for dealing with flying sparks from wood fires is also a sound precaution, as is using heat-resistant gloves to handle hot parts of the fire pit safely.
For wood-stoked fire pits, be mindful to only burn wood that’s been seasoned at least six months, and stick to oak or hickory for fewer cracks and sparks, making sure the logs are cut less than three-quarters the diameter of the pit. Construction materials are off limits, as they release toxic chemicals into the air.
As for the next day, because fire pits can still be very hot, be sure children are aware of this and remain supervised near the fire pit until the embers are completely burned and the temperature has returned to normal.
If you can, create built-in seating. This prevents seats from getting too close to the flames. Otherwise, be sure heavier chairs are used to keep people from tipping toward the pit. Children and pets should be supervised at all times, and should stay 10 feet back from the fire. And, remember that anyone can trip and end up in the fire. Drinking makes this an even greater risk.
Disclosure: This post is brought to you by The Family Handyman editors, who aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We welcome your feedback. Have something you think we should know about? Contact us, here.