Our latest heat wave may have you thinking otherwise, but fall has arrived and the weather should soon be cooling off enough for us to finally enjoy our outdoor fire features. Fire pits and fireplaces are some of the most sought-after additions to outdoor living spaces, particularly in areas like Ojai where we can entertain under the stars any month of the year.
Aside from providing warmth, fire features create a more intimate atmosphere for social gatherings and provide a visually appealing focal point around which your guests can gather while enjoying a cocktail or telling tall tales.
Here are seven safety tips to help you more fully enjoy your fire pit this fall and winter while keeping you and your guests safe:
1. Keep It Clean - Before your first autumn soiree, make sure your fire pit and screen are clean and in good repair. If your fire pit has a drain or vents, make sure they are not clogged with ashes.
2. Clear the Area - Make sure your fire pit and the area around it are free of flammable debris, such as dry leaves.
3. Burn the Right Fuel - Propane and natural gas fire pits are better for the environment, but wood-burning pits are still the most popular. Always use dry, seasoned firewood for a safer fire, or opt for eco-friendlier manufactured logs. Avoid using lighter fluid, which can cause flare-ups, and never use wood that has been stained, painted or chemically treated.
4. Start Your Fire Safely - It is best to start small and build your fire slowly. It may be tempting to add crumbled paper in with your kindling, but burning paper may be blown out of the bowl and could start an unwanted fire elsewhere in your yard. It is best to use safer fire starters you can make beforehand or purchase at the store. Always use wood that fits completely into your fire pit and does not protrude out of or lean against the side of the bowl.
5. Use the Right Accessories - Always use a screen to keep embers and sparks under control. If your party plans include roasting marshmallows, make sure you use outdoor cookware designed for use over an open flame to avoid accidents or burns. If you will be grilling food, use only a properly fitting grill designed for use with your fire pit.
6. Keep Your Distance - Gathering around the fire is part of the fun but, even with a screen and proper fire tending, sparks may fly. Keep your seating at a safe distance to avoid your guests or favorite patio cushions being burned.
7. Properly Extinguish Your Fire - Letting your fire burn out unattended while you bid your guests good night may be tempting, but that is a habit best avoided. Dumping water on the flames and leaving your fire to die alone isn't such a great idea either, since it could result in dangerous flare-ups.
Once your fire has mostly burned out, spread the ashes to allow them to cool. Once cooled, slowly add water to dowse hidden embers. Alternate spreading the ashes and adding water until steam stops rising.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
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