How to Enjoy Safe Outdoor Fire Pits

A concrete round fire pit with lava rocks with a flame on top by a bench.

Whether you enjoy a family barbecue in the middle of summer or prefer cuddling with someone special in front of an open fire on a chilly day in autumn, fire pits are a welcome addition to your home. The extra outdoor space is perfect for entertaining as well as simply adding open space for family nights outside. With the extra heat provided by fire pits and patio heaters, you can extend your outdoor enjoyment throughout the year, so you don’t have to spend the winter stuck inside. Like any heating element, there are some general safety practices that help to make your fire pit safer and more enjoyable for everyone.

A concrete square fire pit with lava crystals on fire.


Any open flame comes with the risk of the accidental spread of fire. Keep your home and family safe by making sure your fire pit is at least 10 feet away from buildings and trees, so sparks can’t easily get to them. All fire pits should be on a stable surface where they can’t tip and spill hot coals over flammable items. Be especially observant of overhanging branches and items like balloons and umbrellas that might blow over the flames during operation. If you have a fire pit table, watch for objects that are flammable or might melt and keep them on a separate table away from the flames. By reducing exposure of flame to flammable objects, you won’t have to worry about the fire burning up something valuable and can instead spend your time enjoying food, conversation, or just the burning fire.

A fireplace with burning wood inside.

Safety Equipment

Whenever there’s a fire burning, make sure you or someone responsible is nearby to put it out if it gets out of hand. Having a fire extinguisher is a good first step. If you have a propane fire pit, make sure to turn off the gas before attempting to extinguish it. Other safety items like a bucket of sand or a garden hose can be used in case of stray sparks. Placing a screen around fire pits can help prevent this before the sparks have any risk of floating around. Other useful items to have on hand include a fire poker and flame-retardant gloves.

A metal round fire pit with some burning wood inside.

Proper Fuel

It sometimes seems like a good idea to add gasoline or other flammable materials to get the fire started. While generally useful in small amounts, it’s easy to accidentally add too much, which can cause a minor explosion in your fire pit. To maintain optimal safety, use a slow, steady method of lighting and maintaining your fire and only use the recommended materials in your outdoor fire pit. Never burn anything but propane in a propane fire pit.For wood-burning fire pits, be smart about which kind of wood you use to help avoid excessive sparks and smoke. Young wood that hasn’t been seasoned properly will cause a lot of smoke because it is still wet. Similarly, composite woods like plywood contain materials that create toxic fumes when burned. It’s best to stick to a well-seasoned hardwood like maple or oak that will burn steadily for several hours. Make sure the wood is cut to fit entirely in your fire pit, especially if you have a fire table.

A round fire pit with some burning lava rocks inside.

Clear Space

On cold nights, it feels good to snuggle up close to the fire but watch for loose clothing that could slip into the fire. The best practice is to make sure everyone is seated at least far enough from the fire that they can stand without touching the fire pit. Overcrowding by people and loose objects such as coolers, empty chairs, and other items can make it difficult to safely walk around. Keep a clear space at least 2 feet around fire pits to help avoid tripping hazards near the flame. If there are children present, remind them to keep their distance from the fire, and make sure babies and toddlers can’t accidentally fall toward the flames.

Staying Safe

By following some basic safety tips, it’s easy and fun to spend time around your fire pit without the worry of accidents. Basically, make sure the only things that can get into fire pits are things you want to burn and keep safety equipment easily accessible. Making sure everyone is aware of safety rules helps to keep your outdoor fire pit a good experience for everyone.