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The 4 Ps of Backyard Fire Pit Safety

With these long summer days stretching late into the night, backyard parties and evening bonfires become more frequent. It is important to understand how to light your fire, where to have it and how to extinguish it safely. Please read our 4 P’s of Backyard Fire Pit Safety so that we can all have fun, safe nights around the fire.

Positioning the Pit

First things first, pick your spot! You want it to be at least two meters from any structure, preferably more if you have the room. Make sure there are no obstructions hanging over the fire pit, like a deck covering, low hanging branches or nearby plants. It is recommended that fires are kept to a reasonable size, staying within the limits of 1 meter high by 1 meter wide.

Fire pits will often be dug into the ground and then surrounded with brick or concrete blocks. There are also portable fire pit options that are great for large decks made of brick or stone. Never use a portable fire pit on a wooden deck or grass that is potentially flammable. Make sure that the pit is dug at least 6 inches into the ground or on a non-flammable surface, like dirt or stone blocks.

Picking the Wood

When having a fire, it is important to choose the right flammable materials. Choose to burn clean, dry firewood for your bonfire so that you can enjoy a warm fire with minimal smoke.

Do NOT burn:

  • Wood from out of the province. This could introduce new bugs/pests to the area.
  • Wood that is painted or treated. This creates poor air quality and is not safe to cook over.
  • Wood that is wet or freshly cut. This will create a lot of smoke and the wood will not burn well. Soft woods like pine and cedar can ‘pop’ and cause embers to shoot out of the pit.
  • Garbage or other materials. This creates poor air quality and is not safe.

Preparing the Pit

Before lighting a fire, ensure that there are no flammable materials close by, that the fire pit is large enough to contain the fire and that you have a good barrier around the pit so that embers do not escape. If the weather is poor and it is windy outside, do not light the fire.

When lighting a fire, use matches, a commercial fire starter or a lighter to ignite the kindling. Do not use flammable materials since they can be unpredictable and dangerous.

Once the fire is lit, make sure to follow these fire safety rules:

  • Do not wear loose clothing when near the flames.
  • Never leave the fire unattended, especially with children or pets around.
  • Only use a reasonable amount of wood to keep the fire burning softly.
  • Keep a bucket of water or hose close by in case of emergencies.

Putting it Out

The night has come to an end and it’s time to put the fire out. Wait until the wood has mostly burned into ash. Pour water over the embers to cool them. Using a shovel or metal fire poker, stir the embers around and pour more water to ensure the heat is gone. Either cover your pit using the metal lid or discard the ashes by scooping them into a metal tin. Do not throw them on the ground, the compost pile or anywhere with flammable materials in case the embers still contain any heat.

If you reside in Calgary, there are certain rules and regulations regarding a personal fire pit. Please see Calgary fire pit bylaws here.


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