A backyard fire pit can either be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to unwind at the end of a long day or it can be the cause for much anguish and pain. The outcome of your evening depends in large part on your planning and your attitude of respect for the damage your seemingly harmless fire pit can bring. Remember, any time you are dealing with fire, common sense will be your ally.
Plan for Safety Before the Fire is Lit
· Follow the local regulations in your area to avoid hefty fines, as some municipalities prohibit recreational fires.
· Unless fire pits are prohibited in your area, here in Ohio, you should follow the Ohio Fire Code stated regulations.
Recreational fires must be:
· No larger than 2 feet wide by 3 feet high
· At least 25 feet away in all directions from the nearest flammable items. Look up and all around where you plan to put your fire pit. Dry brush on the ground, overhead tree branches, your or your neighbor’s house, garage, or fence could be potentially in danger from a fire pit placed too close to them.
· Contained in within a pit, fire ring or commercial fire pit
In addition, keep in mind these points:
· When purchasing a commercial fire pit, make sure to read and understand all of the instructions before using the unit for the first time.
· If using a gas unit, make sure the vents are open and clear to avoid smoky flare-ups and make sure that you are not using unit in an enclosed space where the fumes could be harmful.
· Avoid starting a fire in a strong wind or in a wind coming from a direction that makes it likely that the flames will gallop toward a nearby structure or tree.
· Avoid starting a fire in a dry period (like the one we are having now.) It would be too easy for a fire to rage out of control.
· When building the fire in a bowl-shaped fire pit use sticks that are only ¾ the diameter of the bowl. This will help ensure that the fire will stay manageable.
Stay Safe Once the Fire is Going
· Use a fire screen to protect from wayward sparks.
· Per the Ohio Fire Code, have someone over the age of 18 present at the fire pit at all times.
· Never leave children unattended around the fire pit.
· Keep in mind that even if your fire is legal, if it is objectionable to your neighbor, you must extinguish it.
· Keep a fire extinguisher handy just in case your fire pit’s cozy glow turns into a monster that jumps and claws its way toward objects it shouldn’t. The best typeof extinguisher to have is a dry-chemical extinguisher with a B or C rating or one that is multi-purpose~ like you would have for your kitchen. To properly use the fire extinguisher, remember PASS. Pull the pin. Aim at the bottom of the fire. Squeeze the trigger slowly. And finally, sweep back and forth as you are squeezing. Most portable extinguishers only have a range of 6-10 feet and will only last for 8-10 seconds.
· If your fire pit is made out of ceramic it’s a good idea to keep a bucket of sand nearby, since the cold water from a hose may crack the fire pit container.
· Make sure at least one person has a cell phone with them. You never know when a quick call to the fire department might be needed.
Extinguishing the Fire
· Make sure all of the hot coals are extinguished with water from a bucket or your garden hose. Continue dousing the embers with water until no more steam is being released.
· Cover the fire pit with a lid once the fire has been put out.
· Leave all of the extinguished embers alone for at least 24 hours. Do not dispose of the ashes until you know for sure that there is absolutely no heat left in them. Store the ashes in a metal bucket to further protect your safety or place them in your garden.
Those of us here at the Barker, Beck, Collins and Kronauge Agency wish you a safe, enjoyable, and relaxing summer. Here is a recipe to help you enjoy your backyard fire pit.