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How to put out a fire pit: Nine tips to enjoy yours safely

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Few things are better on a crisp evening than sitting outside around a warm fire with friends and family. It’s hard to beat breathing in the cool, night air while staying toasty and warm in your own yard. But what happens when the fire burns low and it’s time to turn in for the night? Before heading inside, you’ll want to make sure that you successfully extinguish the flames in your pit. It’s not safe to let a fire burn overnight because you could wake up to a dangerous house fire.

In 2020, nearly 357,000 house fires ravaged homes across the nation — that’s one every 89 seconds. Residential fires are one of the leading types for both civilian fire deaths and injuries, and a study found that nearly 50% of pediatric burn injuries from outdoor fires result from a fall into a fire pit, bonfire or campfire.

If you like to enjoy your home fire pit, it’s important that you take extreme care to prevent fire injuries and damage from happening in your own backyard. Keep reading to learn how to properly put out a fire pit, how to extinguish one without water and key fire safety tips to protect yourself and your home.

In the event that some rogue sparks get fanned into flames, make sure that you have a home insurance policy to cover you for any fire damage. Don’t forget to check out the infographic below for some ways to make enjoying your fire pit more eco-friendly.

Steps for extinguishing a fire pit

Unless you have a gas-powered fire pit, most fire pits don’t magically extinguish the moment you want the fire gone. So to help you successfully put out an outdoor fire pit, we’ve outlined the necessary steps below.


1. Stop adding fuel to your fire

The first step to easily putting out your fire pit takes a little forethought. About an hour or so before you plan to extinguish your fire, stop adding in wood or any other fuel you may be using to keep it going.

If you happen to be using a commercial fire log or firestarter, remove it from the rest of your fuel by placing it to the side of your pit. Keep in mind that you should not remove the fire log from the pit itself, but just keep it away from the rest of the fire. Once you’ve removed the fire log, smother it in ash to stop it from burning.

Quick tip: Spread out each log so they’re not touching. This will help them burn faster.


2. Let the fire burn down

Now that you’ve stopped adding fuel to the fire, allow the fire to burn down on its own. This reduces the amount of flames you’ll need to extinguish later. Even though you’ve stopped adding fuel, it can be helpful to speed up the burning process yourself by clearing away ash with a shovel or stick.

Be careful not to flick embers from the fire onto your surroundings and don’t touch anything with your bare hands. Remember that even if a piece of wood or coal isn’t glowing red, it may still be very hot. Ideally, the fire will have burned down to ash before you move to the next step.

Quick tip: Allow the fire to burn for 30-45 more minutes before you try to put it out.


3. Douse the remaining fire with water

When you’re ready to extinguish your fire, you can do so with a bucket of water or garden hose. If you choose to use a hose, set your nozzle to a shower or spray setting, because a direct jet of water could create sparks. While you douse the fire with water, remember to stand a good distance away from the flames. Heat from the fire will turn the water to scalding hot steam that can burn you or anyone else nearby.

As you pour water on the flames, you may hear sputtering or sizzling sounds. You’ll want to keep adding water until these sounds have stopped entirely. Take care to cover every bit of ash in water as well, even if it isn’t red or glowing.

Quick tip: Have two buckets of water on hand so you don’t have to wait to fill another if you need it.


4. Stir the ash and embers

Once your fire is soaked with water, the next step will be to stir the ash and embers with a poker or shovel. You’ll want to inspect it closely to ensure that everything is soaked. If you see any steam or hear any hot spots, you can always add more water to completely put it out.

Quick tip: Use a stick if you don’t have a poker or shovel.


5. Check the fire and your surroundings

Before moving on, it’s important to check your fire pit for heat. Make sure everything has cooled off entirely. Plan to dedicate an adequate amount of time to checking that the fire is extinguished because rushing through this step could mean missed embers.

Everything should be cool to the touch before you leave it alone, but use caution when checking. After you’ve made sure that everything is fully extinguished, it’s time to check your surroundings for any debris that may have escaped the fire pit. Survey the area around the pit for ash, sparks or embers that might need to be put out.

Quick tip: Clean up the cooled ashes so your pit doesn’t rust.

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How to put out a fire pit without water

If you’re trying to conserve water at home, there are alternative ways to put out a fire pit. Check out the different methods of extinguishing a fire below.

Cover with sand or dirt

No water? No problem. You can try using dirt or sand to put out a fire that has died down. With a shovel, scoop dry sand or dirt into your pit to extinguish the fire. Next, you’ll want to stir it into the ash to make sure any embers are completely gone. Remember to check the fire and your surroundings before you leave the pit.

If you’re finding that you don’t have enough sand or dirt on hand, you can also use the ash from the fire in a pinch. Keep in mind that this isn’t the most ideal option, as it will reduce any flames but it won’t reduce the heat.

The sand and dirt method is actually preferable if you have a metal fire pit that you plan to use season after season. Water that’s left sitting in a metal pit will cause it to rust, so it’s best to avoid using water with this type of fire pit.

Try a snuffer

Some fire pits come with a snuffer that you can use to extinguish your fire. All fires need oxygen to sustain themselves, and a snuffer is designed as a metal lid that cuts off a fire’s oxygen supply.

Even if your pit didn’t come with a snuffer, you can always buy one. A snuffer works best if your pit is a solid bowl shape or any other design where air flow can be cut off from the fire. If air can still reach the flames, the snuffer won’t be very effective.

Snuffers are useful because not only do they snuff fires out, but they function as a cover for your fire pit when it’s not in use. It can keep out the elements or any debris that may fall into your pit. You can also use it as a table if you don't currently have a fire going inside of it.

Turn it off

If you have a gas fire pit, you can simply turn it off when you no longer need it. If your pit turns off with a key, remember not to misplace it or set it too close to the fire itself. A metal key will get hot over time and potentially burn you when you pick it up. Like with any other fire pit, always check that any rocks or glass in the pit have cooled off before leaving it alone.

Use a fire extinguisher

In case of emergencies, you can use a fire extinguisher to put out your fire. Most fire extinguishers have instructions for how to use them printed on the canister, but you can always use the P.A.S.S. method outlined below.

P.A.S.S. method for using a fire extinguisher:

  1. Pull the pin to break the tamper seal.
  2. Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire. Do not touch the horn of a CO₂ extinguisher, as it can get cold enough to damage skin.
  3. Squeeze the handle to begin releasing the extinguishing agent.
  4. Sweep the extinguishing agent from side to side along the base of the fire until the fire is gone. Monitor the area afterward and repeat this step if the fire comes back.

Nine fire pit safety tips to practice at home

Outdoor fire pits are an inviting and luxurious touch to any home, but they should be enjoyed with safety in mind at all times. Practice the following fire pit safety tips anytime you use your fire pit.

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Maintain distance from your home

Although it’s recommended to keep your fire pit at least 10 feet away from other structures and 15 feet away from residences, nearly half of Americans in a survey err on the side of caution and keep theirs at least 30 feet away. If you have the ability to do so, putting more than the recommended amount of distance between your fire pit and any other structures will only benefit you.

Don’t go overboard with fuel

Overloading your fire with wood or other fuel can cause it to flare up suddenly. This may catch any bystanders by surprise or even burn them. Additionally, don’t add flammable liquids like lighter fluid, kerosene or gasoline to your fire pit. These may result in your fire getting out of control and can put nearby structures in jeopardy.

Place your pit on a stable surface

Just like you would with an outdoor grill, make sure to put your fire pit on a stable, open surface. You don’t want it to potentially tip over and start a fire on your property.

Check the weather and air quality first

You shouldn’t light a fire when conditions are windy because sparks can easily get carried away. These sparks could start an unintentional fire in your home or even turn into a wildfire. Check your weather forecast for strong wind advisories or other warnings before you light a fire outside.

Recreational fires also produce particle and air pollution. Don’t forget to check the air quality before starting a fire in your pit. If the air quality is particularly poor when you want to enjoy a fire, it’s better to try again on another day.

Use a spark screen

To keep any sparks from escaping, you can cover your pit with a spark screen. It also works as a protective barrier to keep any pets or people from getting too close to the flames. If your fire pit didn’t come with a screen, consider the shape and size of your pit before you buy a screen. A high-quality screen will last several years.

Burn efficiently with eco fuels

Many people enjoy the smoky scent of a fire, but wood smoke is actually considered harmful to your health and the environment. Burning wood releases particulate matter and pollutants like greenhouse gasses, but you can reduce the impact of your fire by burning hotter and more efficiently.

Keeping a consistent, hot temperature in your pit reduces the negative effects by better breaking down harmful pollutants. Eco fuels like recycled wood logs or coffee ground logs burn hotter and require less fuel. They also produce less smoke and particle pollutants. If you can’t find eco fuel, use only dry, seasoned wood, as it burns more efficiently and produces less smoke and emissions.

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Handle the fire with the proper equipment

You should never handle the fire with your bare hands. Always use equipment like a log grabber or poker if you need to shift wood around in the pit. Don’t attempt to move your pit while a fire is burning in it. Instead, extinguish the fire and wait until the pit has cooled off before you move it.

Have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit on hand

Although enjoyable, fire pits are also dangerous. Keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit nearby in case of emergencies. If your fire escapes the pit, you’ll be prepared to put it out quickly using the extinguisher. In case of any accidental burns, use the first aid kit to treat anything minor but remember to go to the hospital or call 911 for serious burns.

Evacuate and call for help if the fire gets out of control

It’s important to know what to do when a fire is out of control. If your fire grows so large that you can’t extinguish it quickly, evacuate your property immediately and alert any others to the problem.

Once all people and pets are in a safe location, call 911 to alert emergency services of the fire. Under no circumstances should you re-enter your property until firefighters or emergency responders have given the go-ahead.

Having an outdoor fire pit lends itself to good memories with your loved ones in your own backyard. Whether you’re huddled up on a winter’s night or roasting marshmallows on a summer evening, it’s important that you make sure the good times don’t go up in flames.

Use this guide to help you learn how to put out a fire pit, so that you have peace of mind every time you light a fire. Don’t forget to take out a home insurance policy to cover your house and other structures in case of fire damage. For tips on how to enjoy a fire pit and be more environmentally friendly, check out the infographic below.

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