Fireplaces are a different matter. They can get rather pricey, especially for custom models, but modular kits are available as well for less than a third of the cost. And there’s no getting around the fact that they add a special touch to outdoor living, with or without a fire burning in them.
When it comes time to actually start a fire, there are a few things to keep in mind, the most important of which is to keep your fire small. There’s no need for a blazing bonfire, and the bigger the fire, the greater the potential for disaster.
First things first, your fire pit should be at least 10 feet away from any structure or combustible surface. Before lighting an outdoor fire, check the weather forecast. Avoid windy conditions that can blow embers. Also stay up to date on any burn bans or burn ordinances that might be in effect at different times during the year. Doing some house cleaning, like picking up leaves and other combustible materials, around the pit is important to ensure the fire doesn’t accidentally spread. Always have a container of water nearby and a garden hose on standby before starting the fire.
To get a fire started, put a crumpled piece of paper or a store-bought fire starter in the pit, and cover one or both with small sticks — the smaller, the better. As the fire begins to burn, add larger and larger sticks until you’re finally able to add a log or two. But whatever you do, don’t try to start a fire with gasoline. It’s way too dangerous.
The best way to extinguish a fire is to take the ashes, spread them over a larger surface area and let them cool down for a little bit. Then take your small container of water and gently pour it over the ashes, but monitor it. Don’t just throw some water on it and go to bed because it can flare up in the night. If you have a fire that escapes your fire pit and moves into a nearby pile of kindling or a combustible surface, immediately call 911.
There’s no getting around the fact that wood smoke is a pollutant and that outdoor fire pits and fireplaces are completely unnecessary. In fact, in some cities, both indoor fireplaces and outdoor fire features of any kind are illegal. This isn’t just because of the potential for fires, but because of the pollution they produce. That said, the decision to burn or not to burn becomes, for many people, a personal rather than legal one. Regardless of how you feel about the subject, we can all agree that fires are far more decorative than functional.
Alternative sources for outdoor heating:
Although they provide heat on a cold winter night, there are alternative sources for outdoor heating. The most popular are gas-powered heaters, which burn propane or butane. They look nice, and they heat a fairly large area, although if it’s windy outside, the heat seems to blow away in the wind.
But the heat that emanates from infrared heaters isn’t affected by the wind, and there are no fuel tanks to mess with. You simply plug it in, and you get instant, penetrating heat. Brush up on basic fire pit safety before you build your next fire. Discover what steps you should take to keep your family safe.