Whether you want to roast marshmallows or keep from freezing, it’s essential to learn how to start a fire in a fire pit. Or any fire for that matter.
For those that can start a fire in their sleep, first, you should see a doctor about that, but secondly, we all started somewhere. We didn’t pop out the womb with a torch in hand.
Starting a fire in a fire pit requires some knowledge and skill to ensure safety and success.
I’ll discuss the steps, techniques, and tips to help you have a successful fire in no time.
The Importance of Fire
There are so many important reasons why every man, woman, and child (within reason) should know how to properly start, maintain, and be able to extinguish a fire.
First and foremost, emergency heat. Or in our case, our main source of off-grid head. Secondly, the ability to cook without electricity. Thirdly, to purify water. And lastly, for enjoyment.
Of course there are many other reasons, but those are my tops.
#1 Choose A Safe Location For Your Fire Pit
Before you can light your first match, it’s important to choose a safe location.
- The fire pit should be placed on a level, non-flammable surface. Such as concrete, brick, gravel, or hard dirt.
- It should also be located at least 10 feet away from any flammable materials. Such as trees, dry brush, bushes, tents, or buildings.
- Additionally, make sure that the area around the fire pit is clear of any debris, such as leaves or grass, which could catch fire.
#2 Gather The Materials For Your Fire
To start a fire in a fire pit, you will need the following materials:
Choose dry firewood that is free of moisture and has been seasoned for six months. The heavier the wood, the more moisture content it has.
Hardwoods, such as oak, hickory, and maple are ideal for firewood because they burn hotter and longer than softwoods. Some examples of softwood are pine, cedar, and spruce.
Kindling is small sticks or twigs that are used to ignite the firewood. It should be dry and easily combustible.
Newspaper, fat lighter, or a commercial fire starter will work just fine. Firestarter will be used to light the kindling.
Lighter or Matches:
You will need a lighter, matches, or if you’re really adventurous, a ferro rod, to light your fire starter.
#3 Build The Fire In The Fire Pit
Think of building a fire as you wood a lasagna. A fire lasagna if you will.
You need to make layers in the firepit.
Start by placing a layer of kindling in the bottom of the firepit.
Then, stack the firewood in a teepee or log cabin shape, leaving space between the logs for air to circulate.
Make sure the firewood is stacked securely and will not collapse. Otherwise it will extinguish the fire.
#4 Time To Ignite The Fire
Once the kindling is stacked in the fire pit, it’s time to ignite the fire.
Start by placing your fire starter under the kindling in several places.
Using a match or lighter, light the fire starter.
As the fire starter ignites the kindling, gently blow on the flames to help them spread the fire.
#5 Add More Firewood and Maintain The Fire
As the kindling burns, you will need to add your larger firewood to keep it going.
Add one or two logs at a time, making sure to leave that circulation space I mentioned earlier.
You can add more kindling if you notice your fire start to die down or use a poker to stir things up a bit. This helps add oxygen to the fire.
#6 Extinguishing The Fire
Part of the responsibility that we all carry is the safety and security of the wildlife, and the other people that may cross the path of our fire pit. We need to make sure our fire is extinguished properly.
I recall a horrible story about this very thing. Many years ago one of my karate students (yes, I used to be a martial arts instructor), went on a boy scout camping trip with his father.
Unbeknownst to them, the previous campers covered the fire pit with leaves and dirt.
The son, our student, was running all around as little boys do, but without his shoes.
Sadly, he ran through the coals and ashes the irresponsible campers left and suffered third degree burns and extensive damage to both of his feet.
Remember my story when you have a fire outside in the fire pit, whether it’s at your house, in the wilderness, or at a campground.
When you are ready to extinguish the fire, use a bucket of water or a garden hose to pour water over the fire until it is completely out.
Stir the ashes with a shovel to make sure there are no embers still burning.
Fire Pit Safety Tips
I can still hear my mom saying ‘stop playing with the fire’. I don’t know what fascination boys have with fire, but it seems we all have it.
Fascination is one thing, but safety is top priority.
Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.
- Watch the weather. Omit starting a fire if the weather is calling for high winds.
- Always keep a bucket of water or hose nearby in case you need to extinguish the fire. This is often the law as well.
- Never use gasoline, lighter fluid, or other accelerants to start a fire or add to a burning fire.
- Do not leave the fire unattended. Always keep an eye on the fire and make sure that someone is responsible for keeping it under control. This includes when it’s time to go to bed. Either take shifts watching the fire or extinguish it before going to sleep
- Keep children and pets away from the fire pit. Explain the dangers of fire to the children and express how they aren’t allowed to play or run near the fire. One trip while running is all it takes for a visit to the emergency room.
Practice Makes The Fire Burn Stronger
The last little tidbit of advice I have to offer after sharing all the steps I know about how to start a fire in a fire pit it this. Practice, practice, practice.
For example, you don’t want your first go at cooking when you’re expecting the in-laws over for a holiday dinner. You want to be a regulars Hank Shaw to impress your guests.
Same with fire-starting. You don’t want to be freezing and hungry in the wild when you try to start your first fire. Give your new skills a test run a time or two, or ten, before you rely on them for survival.
Build a couple of fires, roast some marshmallows, have the neighbors over for a cold one, and enjoy the warmth.