How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit in a Few Simple Steps

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A fire in a Fire Pit

There’s nothing quite as warm and inviting as a cozy fire under the night sky. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of summer, or winter is drawing in. Your backyard can be your best feature once you know how to start a fire in a fire pit.

Fire pits have become popular in backyards for many people. You can enjoy a fire any night of the week without the expense of adding a fireplace to your home. They’re also the fastest and most attractive way to enjoy a real fire in your backyard.

Do You Have the Skills?

If you’ve never built a fire before, you may feel a bit unsure about how to get it started. But, if you’re prepared and persistent, it’s pretty simple to accomplish.

If you’ve built fires in a grill or fire ring, you'll find it's not much different. In fact, you’ll probably find it a bit easier to deal with. After all, a fire pit features a dry, even surface, with a screened dome for enhanced safety and easier fire management.

The one key difference is remembering that you need to keep your fire a bit smaller, depending on the size of your fire pit.

What You Need to Build Your Fire

It's a good idea to have everything you need to hand. When you're just learning how to build a fire in a fire pit, you don't want to suddenly discover you're missing a crucial element.

Firepit

Choose a fire pit that fits your outdoor ambiance and fits into the space allotted. You don’t want it too close to a building or too near your trees and bushes.

Firewood

Choose hardwood for a longer-lasting fire, because it's denser than softwood. The downside is that you need to let it “season” for as long as a year. If you’re impatient, you can often buy it locally.

Softwoods burn fast and bright, so you'll have to keep feeding your fire. They’re also a good choice if you’re not planning to spend an extended time outdoors.

You can also burn tree trimmings and branches from your yard, but make sure you give it time to dry out completely. Greenwood -- or unseasoned wood -- can prove hard to light and keep lit.

Kindling

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You’ll need small sticks of wood, called kindling, to get your fire started. They should be an inch in diameter or less and burn easily. So, softwood is perfect. Look for pine, fir, or cedar, which are all rich in resins that make them highly flammable.

You can also buy something called “fatwood,” which are kindling sticks specially prepared for easy fire starting.

When learning how to start a fire in a fire pit, you’ll find that you need several sizes of kindling. This gives you more flexibility when building your fire structure.

Tinder

Tinder can be any dry, combustible material that creates the initial flame for your fire. These materials catch fire with just the smallest flame. You can use dried grass, shredded newspapers, or dry tree bark. You can even use cotton balls or dryer lint when your learning how to start a fire in a fire pit.

Flame

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Of course, you’ll need a source of flame. We recommend using something that keeps your fingers out of the fire as much as possible. Look for long fireplace matches. You may even want to use an electric firestarter for convenience.

Water

Even with a safety screen and your long, iron poker, make sure you have water nearby in case of embers or to put the fire out when you’re done for the night.

How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit, Step by Step

Starting a fire in a fire pit is pretty straightforward. However, it may take some determination and patience.

  • Make sure your firepit is clean of excess ash.
  • Clear the ground around your fire pit of flammable debris, like dead leaves or grass clippings
  • Pile your tinder in a small heap in the center of your firepit
  •  Stack your firewood in the pit in a staggered square, leaving the center open. Start with just two or three levels, with four logs to each side. Alternatively, you can use the traditional teepee formation. Remember to stack the firewood loosely so that oxygen can through and keep the fire burning
  • Place kindling inside your stack of firewood strategically. Make sure that the kindling is in full contact with both the tinder and the firewood.
  • Light a match and start the tinder burning. Light it in several places around the pile. You can blow gently on the tinder to ensure it flames up enough to catch the kindling.
  • The tinder will catch the kindling on fire, which will, in turn, catch the firewood. When you're ready to add more firewood, start with smaller pieces, keeping the center of the fire clear for good airflow.
  • As the wood burns, it may collapse, threatening to block off oxygen. Use a poker to move these pieces out of the way to prevent them from smothering the flames.

Safety Tips

Fire has a bad habit of getting out of our control, and even a small burn can hurt like the devil for days on end. So, make sure you stay diligent when your learning how to start a fire in a fire pit. Don't make us send Smokey the Bear after you!

Keep your fire pit at least 10 feet away from any buildings, as well as avoiding overhangs or tree canopies.

Don't use lighter fluid or gasoline -- have patience and add more kindling instead.

If you plan to use your wood ash in the garden or to de-ice walkways and need it to stay dry, keep a bucket of sand nearby to extinguish the fire completely.

Invest in a good set of fire pit tools that will allow you to manage your fire safely.

If you’re planning cooking on your fire pit, get some heat-resistant gloves to help you handle hot pans, skewers, and grills.

Don't use lighter fluid or gasoline -- have patience and add more kindling instead.

Light Your Fire

Now that you know how to start a fire in a fire pit, you can set the scene for relaxation or romance without a stumble.

Fire pits are a fantastic addition to your backyard, allowing you to provide ambiance for entertaining, warmth on a chilly night, as well as the joy of toasted marshmallows.

Do you have any tricks for how to start a fire in a fire pit or fire ring? Share your best tips in the comment section.

Featured Photo by Alan Labisch on Unsplash

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