Is It Safe To Have a Fire In My Yard?

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There is nothing cozier then having a fire when the temperatures drop.  Gathering friends and family around the fire on a chilly evening is a great way to relax and create memories.  Add some s’mores for a fun and delicious end to the evening.

With the increased popularity of fire pits for your patio or backyard, having outdoor fires have grown in popularity.  Before you purchase a fire pit, consider the pros and cons of a wood burning or gas fire pit.

But with the prevalence of drought and wild fires, you may be wondering if it’s still safe to have a wood burning fire in your backyard.  The answer depends on a few factors. Read on for some safety tips.

Fire Laws

Rules around whether you can have a backyard fire will vary for each municipality.  Check with your local city or county website – they should outline any rules around having a fire and if there are any current fire bans due to fire danger.  If you are in a neighborhood, check your local HOA rules as well.  Some housing authorities ban back yard fires.

Fire Bans

Fire bans generally go in effect when dry weather conditions create a high fire danger or air quality is at an unhealthy level due to smoke in the area.  Fire bans are in place for your own health and safety as well as that of your community so check the rules and adhere to them by ensuring there are no bans in effect before you start a fire.

Fire Safety

Before lighting a fire, ensure that you are set up for safety first.  Check the following conditions before starting any backyard fire.

  • Check the weather and avoid fires in windy conditions – wind can provide dangerous conditions for a fire in a short amount of time
  • Make sure your fire is built at least 15 feet from any flammable items like houses, fences, garden sheds or trees
  • If you are using a wood-burning fire pit, use clean and dry wood free of chemicals like paint or stain (do not use leftover wood from a construction site or project)
  • Never leave a fire unattended – even in a few moments, a gust of wind can wreak havoc
  • Be ready to extinguish your fire immediately – keep water or fire extinguisher nearby for emergencies
  • Make sure your fire is completely cold at the end of the night – avoid dousing it with fire until it’s nearly burned out to protect your fire pit from extreme temperatures.
  • If you are using a gas fire pit, remember to turn off the switch and turn off the gas line before retiring for the evening

Large log store filled with firewood, timber

Burning Wood Responsibly

Cropped view of man sitting and putting log on fire

How to start a fire

Be prepared before you start a fire with the right tinder, kindling and wood.  Once you’re ready, there are different ways to lay (start) a fire that will ensure it burns well.

Tinder is the starter that’s going to get your fire going.  You can use a variety of materials including paper, twigs, shaved wood, birch bark, newspaper, dryer lint, and cardboard.

Kindling is the smaller pieces of wood you’ll need between your tinder and the main fuel.  If you jump from tinder to logs, you’ll find out the hard way that your fire isn’t going to survive.  Use smaller pieces of your fuel wood (think the size of a ruler) to get your fire going before you fuel it.

Wood is the main fuel for your fire.  Follow these steps to reduce pollution caused by particles

  • Burn only dry and seasoned wood which burns cleaner and hotter
  • Store stacked wood with a cover to keep it dry but it’s also vital to keep some air flow through the wood to ensure it stays dry
  • If you don’t have a wood shed for storage, a simple tarp and bungie system will work well and is cost effective.  Or you  can also purchase firewood covers specifically designed for your wood stack
  • Dry wood is ideally 20 percent or less moisture content- use a moisture meter to check your wood
  • AVOID burning yard or construction waste or green wood – they can be toxic and cause smoke
  • Consider a spark screen for your fire pit to avoid flying sparks catching anything on fire

How to Safely Extinguish a Fire

Always be prepared to put a fire out in case the weather or wind conditions change.  Here are some tips to ensure you put the fire out safely.

  • Have a garden hose or water bucket in easy reach.
  • When you’re ready to extinguish the fire the the night, sprinkle the fire with water.
  • Don’t dump or pour water on which can damage your fire pit
  • When the fire has been reduced to embers, use a shovel to mix the ash and embers around until you can’t feel any heat or hear any hissing sound.
  • When it’s safe to do so, touch the ash to ensure that it’s cold and make sure you dispose of the ashes responsibly.

It is possible to enjoy the coziness of a wood-burning fire safely and responsibly.  Follow these safety tips to ensure a memorable and safe evening around the fire.