How to Keep Safe Around Fire Pits

By Olivia Pitkenthly

With cooler temperatures comes the desire to toast a few marshmallows and relax by a warm fire. However, make sure your safety measures aren’t too relaxed. Fire pits have caused nearly 3,700 grass and brush fires in the U.S. Keep these tips in mind as you plan your toasty evening:


Your fire pit should be at least 25 feet from your house and 25 feet from any forest, brush or wildlands. Make sure the area is clear of any debris or flammable objects. Do not set up your fire pit underneath low-hanging trees. The best surface on which to place a fire pit is hard stone, cement or tile, which are all fire proof.

What to burn

Breathing in the smoke from a wood-burning fire pit can be dangerous, especially if you have heart or lung diseases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns those with such illnesses to steer clear of wood smoke. Children should also keep their distance as their respiratory systems are still developing and they breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults.

Avoid burning paper and don’t burn on a windy evening. If your fire pit has a wire mesh covering, use it. It will prevent sparks from flying and causing additional fires. You should also avoid using soft woods like pine or cedar because they tend to “pop” and throw sparks.

Also note that it is illegal to burn pressure-treated wood because it contains toxins that are harmful to the environment. Do not use flammable liquids, like gas or lighter fluid, to light or relight fires.

Sweet treat

When toasting marshmallows, be sure to use a long enough branch so that the kids don’t get too close to the flame. Because they are made of sugar, marshmallows can act like little bits of fuel. You want to hold the marshmallow to the side of the flame, in an area of glowing coals. If you hold it above the flame, the marshmallows can catch on fire. Once the marshmallow is toasted to your liking, wait at least 30 seconds for it to cool before eating it. You don’t want to burn your tongue!


Always have a garden hose, shovel or bucket full of water ready and within reach of the fire. If you are burning coals, keep in mind that they can remain hot for two or three days if the conditions are right. Always make sure coals are completely cool before dumping them in a trash can or on the ground. Never leave a fire unattended.