Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports: Fire Pit Fun and Safety

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Nothing says fall like gathering around a campfire, even when many people are staying close to home because of the pandemic. It’s no wonder online searches for fire pits have been twice as high compared with previous years. But before you break out the marshmallows, the folks at Consumer Reports say that taking a few precautions can go a long way in creating safe and fun outdoor memories.

Ideally, you want to place a fire pit or chimenea away from your house or anything else that could possibly burn. Make sure it’s at least 10 feet away and preferably up to 25 feet.

It’s best to raise your fire pit off of the ground. But be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions about how high it should be and what surfaces can be underneath.

You want to keep the fire away from anything natural that can burn, like trees and bushes. Clear overhead so the smoke can rise up. Keep in mind that you don’t need a spark to start a fire. If the brush is dry and brittle enough, the heat alone can ignite it.

CR says different types of wood create different types of fires. Avoid softer woods like pine or cedar because they tend to smoke and spark. Instead, choose woods that burn longer, like hickory, oak, or ash. Another good thing about hickory is that it has that wonderful campfire smell.

Once you’ve got a crackling fire, place a spark screen on top of the pit and keep a garden hose nearby to handle anything that gets out of control.

When it’s time to call it a night, spread out the coals, ash, and any unburnt logs in the thinnest layer possible. Then, set your garden hose nozzle to a wide spray and saturate the area until the embers die.

CR says that unless you’re too far away from a hose and there’s no alternative, never use a bucket of water to put out your fire. Dumping water on a wood-burning fire forms a hard crust on top, which can leave hot coals still burning underneath.

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