Warmer days and nights seem to call us outside to linger. And what better way to linger–by ourselves, or with friends and family–than around the comforting flicker of a fire?
Building fires outside is a time-honored tradition. But it is one that’s prone to danger if approached carelessly. Fortunately, you can still have fun and relax around a fire. You just need to keep some commonsense fire safety tips in mind.
Whether you choose to enjoy fire at home or away, the following outline common outdoor fire scenarios and ways to stay safe with each one:
No camping trip would be complete without the communal centerpiece of a campfire. At the end of the day, a campfire is where a family gathers to cook s’mores, talk, and stay warm as the evening cools.
Campsites are often located in forested areas. In other words, areas with plenty of kindling should a campfire go rogue. To prevent that from happening:
- Build your campfire in areas devoid of leaves, grasses, or other flammable materials.
- For easier control over it, keep the campfire relatively compact.
- Have a shovel and water handy in case you need to put the fire out quickly.
- Keep weather conditions in mind; don’t start a campfire if it’s windy.
- When it comes to roasting things, make sure you have long-enough sticks to prevent anyone’s hair or clothing from getting too close to the flames.
- Before going to bed or otherwise leaving the campfire unattended, make sure it is completely out and cool.
A fire pit brings the charm and atmosphere of a campfire to your backyard. And it serves similar purposes as a social and functional center for outdoor entertaining.
Ideally, by planning ahead with fire safety in mind, you can maximize your enjoyment of a fire pit and prevent accidents. To those ends, consider the following when setting up a fire pit area:
- Follow the same tips as those for a campfire. Additionally…
- Build your fire pit in a wide open area, preferably on a non-flammable dirt, cement, or gravel surface.
- Contain the fire in a specially designed metal bowl or cinderblock surround.
- Arrange seating close enough to feel the warmth, but not close enough to possibly catch something on fire.
We are officially in the heart of outdoor cooking season. The pull to cook outside over an open flame is almost primal. There’s just something about preparing a meal al fresco, and mastering a temperamental heat source to do so.
But it is that same temperamental heat source that could be the source of accidental fires or burn injuries if not tended to properly. Master the grill and be safe by:
- Positioning your grill on a flat, firm surface, away from wooden walls or trees.
- Never leave a hot grill unattended.
- When done cooking on a gas grill, doublecheck that the knobs are turned off all the way. Listen for any hissing to indicate if gas is still coming through or not.
- With a charcoal grill, make sure all the briquettes are spread out. Douse them with water until they no longer glow or steam. You want grey, ashy, and cool.
Outdoor Power Equipment
Lawn mowers, chain saws, and tractors may be necessary to keep your property well-kept. But this equipment can get very hot or throw sparks that can accidentally trigger a fire if you’re not careful.
To keep your yard looking neat and trim without incident, be sure to follow these fire safety tips:
- Check the equipment before use to make sure there aren’t any leaks, overheating, or other mechanical issues.
- Keep an eye on surrounding plant growth when working, especially in dry conditions.
- Let just-used equipment cool off before putting it away.
Yard Waste Burning
You may reside in a location that allows controlled burning of leaves, dead brush, and other yard waste. “Controlled” should be your focus for these kinds of burns. The following fire safety tips can help you make sure you do keep control:
- Burn in small, manageable amounts. This could mean several rounds, depending on how much brush you have gathered.
- Do your burning on cool, windless days.
- As with a campfire, the setting should be free of flammable materials.
- Consider using a specialty burning cage.
- Have a hose, shovel, or full bucket of water nearby should you need to put out a fire.
If you live in or near wooded areas or open grasslands, you should always be prepared to protect your home and family from wildfires. After all, while you may follow outdoor fire safety protocols to the letter, others may not. And the weather (e.g. lightning) certainly doesn’t.
To protect your home from wildfires:
- Create a safety zone around the perimeter of your home. 100 feet is a good rule of thumb to keep flames or sparks out of reach.
- Keep firewood, yard equipment, and any other potentially flammable materials at least 30 feet away from the main house.
- Make sure any lawn, trees, or other plantings are properly pruned and well-watered.
- Don’t let any trees or shrubs overhang your home’s roof.
- Keep gutters clean of branches and dead leaves.
Yes, accidents can still happen. But by keeping these outdoor fire safety tips in mind, you will be much better prepared to enjoy being outside, while also keeping yourself, your family, and others safe.
For more safety tips and advice, be sure to read the PeopleFinders Blog.
Photo credit: Valentyn Volkov – www.shutterstock.com