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How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit (Step-By-Step Guide)

Picture this - it’s a nice sunny day and you decided to invite your friends over for a few drinks on the patio to catch up. And it's going great until the sun goes down and it’s just a little too chilly to stay outside. 

Coincidentally, your new state-of-the-art fire pit arrived the other day and you haven’t had a chance to test it out. This is your big chance to impress your friends, but you aren’t entirely sure how to start a fire in a fire pit.

Luckily, customers are our top priority at Fire Pit Surplus which is why we created this step-by-step guide that will take you through the process of starting a fire in your new fire pit, so you can be the one who keeps the party going.

Table of Contents:

1. Fire Pit Safety

2. What You Can And Cannot Put Into Your Backyard Fire Pit

3. Ways to Start a Fire in Your Outdoor Wood or Gas Fire Pit

    3.1 How To Light a Wood Fire Pit the Traditional Way

3.2 How To Light a Gas Fire Pit With Match Lit Ignition

3.3 How To Light a Gas Fire Pit With Electronic Ignition

4. Tools and Materials For Lighting a Wood-Burning Fire Pit

5. How to Start a Wood Burning Fire in a Fire Pit in 7 Steps

6. Extinguishing the Fire in a Fire Pit

7. Cleaning the Fire Pit After a Fire

7.1 Metal Fire Pit

7.2 Stone Fire Pit

7.3 Gas Fire Pit

8. FAQs

Fire Pit Safety

Before starting a fire, you’ll want to make sure you are briefed on fire safety rules.

Check The Wind

Strong winds can make it difficult to light a fire pit. The flames tend to flare up in the direction of the wind. The fire will take longer to start, and during that time sparks can get caught in the wind. This is a potential fire hazard if there are plants or bushes nearby. 

Don’t Use Construction Lumber

Construction Lumber, such as Plywood, is treated with harsh chemicals and adhesives that emit toxic fumes on burning. These toxic fumes can make any gathering immediately break out into a fit of coughs, and also damage any food around the flame.

Make sure you are using bare branches or seasoned hardwood kindling and logs.

Start Pit Fires in Open Surroundings

Lighting fires indoors or underneath overhead obstacles is always a bad idea. Clear the surroundings when you want to fire a fire pit and remove any flammable substances. 

Always Keep a Water Bucket Nearby

Before firing the pit, you must keep emergency tools at a hand’s distance. Fire can get out of control quickly so make sure to keep a water bucket or a fire extinguisher nearby. Alternatively, you can use a fire safety kit.

Maintain Your Distance

You should maintain at least a hand’s distance when dealing with fires. Do not go near the fire with loose clothes, and keep your sleeves rolled up when starting a fire. 

Never Leave the Fire Unattended

As we mentioned above, fires spread quickly. Consequently, you must stay vigilant during the entire process. By doing so, you can take control of the fire before it gets out of hand.

Understanding What You Can and Can't Burn in Your Backyard Fire Pit

It is also important to understand that you cannot burn random things in the backyard fire pit. Besides being extremely risky, inhaling the resultant toxic fumes can cause harm to your health.

Here is a quick list of materials you should keep well away from any fires or flammable material.

  • Plastic.

  • Accelerants.

  • Paper.

  • Gasoline/Kerosene.

  • Wooden Pallets.

  • Particle Board.

  • Cardboard.

  • Painted Wood.

  • Soft Wood.

  • Oak, Poison Ivy.

  • Trash. 

what-not-to-burn-fire-pit-in-a-fire-pit.jpg

From plastic to everyday trash, you should never put these materials in the fire pit. Most of these items are either toxic when burned or highly flammable.

Ways to Start a Fire in Your Outdoor Wood or Gas Fire Pit

While wood and gas fire pits both provide outdoor ambiance, they are different in a number of ways including the way in which you get the fire going in either option. Now, to the fun part how the heck are you supposed to start a fire in your wood or gas fire pit?! Well, keep on reading!

How To Light a Wood Fire Pit the Traditional Way

Here’s how you start a fire in a fire pit the traditional way.

  1. Form a layer of tinder on the bottom of your fire pit. 

  2. Next, use the kindling directly on top of the tinder to create a 35-degree angle. Create a pyramid or a criss-cross structure with the kindling.

  3. Remember to leave small gaps to allow airflow between the wood structure.

  4. Light the tinder pile using a fire starter kit. Place the firewood when the kindling starts to burn.

  5. Once the structure catches fire, place the seasoned firewood in the pit. Maintain the same design as the kindling. 

  6. The fire pit is ready.

Fire Pit Art Magnum Wood Burning Fire Pits With Flame On The Riverside

How To Light a Gas Fire Pit Using a Match Lit System

All gas fire pits will fall into the following 3 ignition types: match lit, push-button, and electronic. Let’s start off with the simplest but not necessarily the most convenient system - match-lit ignition.

Turning on a match-lit system is as easy as 1-2-3: 

  1. Insert the valve key in the gas supply area of your fire pit.

  2. Turn on the gas valve and light a long-stemmed match. 

  3. Once you see the flames, put out the match and adjust flame levels depending on your fire pit needs.

Since match-lit backyard fire pits are easy to handle, they should always come from a trusted, high-quality brand. A good brand name ensures that your fire pit has the necessary certifications and is less likely to ever malfunction.

Prism Hardscapes produces reliable match-lit systems for your fire pit. Their fire pits are reliable, durable, easy to use, and beautiful additions to your backyard. Reach out to us for more inquiries.

How To Light a Gas Fire Pit Using a Match Lit System

How To Light a Gas Fire Pit With Electronic Ignition

An Electronic Ignition System typically includes the most premium features when it comes to igniting your backyard fire pit. You can say goodbye to the hassles that come with matches and lighters. These systems have built-in batteries that can start a fire through a push of a button with a remote or phone app

Here is how a fire pit with an electronic start system works:

  1. First, turn on the system with a remote control or your phone’s app (if that option is available).

  2. It will start the pilot flame

  3. Next, the gas supply to the main burner is turned on

  4. Your fire pit is ready to use. Enjoy!

American Fyre Design offers the best electronic ignition systems in the industry. The All-Weather Ignition System feature supports your fire pit flame in any weather condition.   Torrential downpour? High Winds? No problem. The AWEIS system was built to keep your flame intact in the harshest conditions.

How To Light a Gas Fire Pit Using an Electronic Ignition System

How To Light a Gas Fire Pit Using a Push-Button Ignition System

A push-button ignition system is more convenient than a match-lit system but not quite as top-tier as an electronic system, making it a  great in-between solution for many.  With this system, you are just a push away from enjoying the warm glow of a fire in the company of your favorite people. Here’s how it works:

  1. Allow the natural gas or LPG to flow to the fire pit by turning on the valve control knob.

  2. Push the ignition system button and control knob simultaneously to produce a spark.

  3. Let go of the button when the pilot flame appears. 

  4. About 20 seconds later, release the valve control as well.

  5. Now, turn the control knob anti-clockwise to light the main burner.

  6. Adjust the flames using the control knob to your liking.

If you are interested in getting an outdoor fire pit with a push-button ignition system, the Elementi Hampton Fire Pit OFG139 will make an excellent addition to your backyard.

It has all the features of an ideal fire pit, such as high durability and sleek design, and ships with its own custom complimentary accessories. 

How To Light a Gas Fire Pit Using a Push-Button Ignition System

Tools and Materials For Lighting a Wood-Burning Fire Pit

To start an outdoor wood-burning fire, you will need a few tools and materials:
  • Fire starters (kitchen match, lighter)

  • Tinder

  • Kindling

  • Firewood

  • A Bucket

  • A Long stick

How to Start a Wood Burning Fire in a Fire Pit in 7 Steps

Here is a summary of the steps to start a fire pit fire.

  1. Compile all the tools and materials listed above.

  2. Find small, dry materials for tinder. 

  3. Choose your fire starters, like matches or lighters.

  4. Find dry sticks and twigs around the garden for kindling. 

  5. Build the fire structure.

  6. Turn on the ignition with a fire starter to produce flames. Adjust the flame intensity to light the firewood. 

  7. Maintain the fire by adding more fuelwoods after certain intervals. 

These are three of the most commonly used fire structures to date, and ensure that you won’t end up with a disappointingly mediocre flame.

  • Cross-Fire Structure

Cross-Fire-Structure-Camp-fire

Place the tinder on the center-bottom of the fire pit. Now, stack up kindling material on top of it in a criss-cross pattern. Lastly, use the fuelwood logs in the above-used pattern. 

  • Teepee Fire Structure

Teepee-Fire-Structure-Camp-fire

Add the tinder material to the center of the fire pit. Vertically place the kindling around the tinder, and leave an opening on one side. Repeat the structure using fuelwood.

  • Log-Cabin Fire Structure

Log-Cabin-Fire-Structure-Camp-fire

With a tinder in the center of the backyard fire pit, structure the kindling vertically around the tinder. Hold up two fuelwood pieces and align them on each side of the structure. Next, take two more fuelwood logs and position them perpendicularly across the first two logs. Follow the same structure two or three times to create a log-cabin network.
However, while making the fire structures keep in mind to leave enough spaces between the logs. This will allow the air through, ensuring proper ventilation.

Extinguishing the Fire in a Fire Pit

Once you have learned how to start a fire pit, you should also know how to put out the fire in a fire pit. Even the tiny embers remaining in a fire pit can cause severe backyard destruction. However, there are ways to avoid disaster by simply pre-planning and researching. 

There are plenty of ways to extinguish a backyard fire pit. Do not rush the process and always double-check to make sure the fire is completely put out.

We will mention a few practical ways in the following sections.

Cut The Fuel Source 30 Minutes Prior To When You Want To Stop Using The Fire Pit

This method works best on match-lit ignition systems and traditional fire pits. Eliminating the fuel supply will weaken the flame intensity, causing them to die down eventually. 

It is advisable to stop the fuel supply at least thirty minutes before turning off the fire pit when you are ready to head inside.

If You’re Using a Wood-Burning Fire Pit, Add Water

Note that you shouldn’t do this on electronic or pre-built fire pits unless there is an emergency. Outside those situations, this is only applicable to wood-burning fire pits.

Pour four or five buckets of water to ensure no embers are left. On the other hand, if you have a water hose in the backyard, use that. Though it should be a multi-head nozzle; otherwise, a direct nozzle will disperse the fire in several directions. 

Stir the Ashes

Once you have successfully put out the fire, use a long stick to stir the remains. It will get rid of any remaining sparks deep within the firewood. 

Cleaning the Fire Pit After a Fire

How To Clean Your Fire Pit

Since there are many types of backyard fire pits, we will explain how to clean each of them properly to ensure your fire pit is ready to go next time you need it.

How To Clean A Metal Fire Pit

  • Collect the remaining ashes and put them in a container once the fire pit cools down.

  • Wipe the fire pit bowl with a soft cloth and a mixture of soap and water.

  • Next, rinse the bowl with clean water.

  • Dry it thoroughly to prevent rust, and cover the fire pit with a lid.

How To Clean A Stone Fire Pit

  • Remove any ashes from your backyard fire pit.

  • Scrub the pit's bowl to clean difficult debris using a stiff brush.

  • Combine 1-part muriatic acid and 9-parts water.

  • Scrub the inside of the fire pit, and then rinse it dry.

  • Alternatively, you can use a soapy mixture instead of the acid.

  • Apply a stone sealant to your fire pit to prevent soot.

You’ll want to make sure you’re in an open environment for this one. Steps 3 and 4 require that you take preventive measures. This includes wearing protective gloves and goggles, as you will be dealing with acid.

How To Clean A Gas Fire Pit

  • Turn off the gas supply.

  • Rub the fire pit's interiors with a light, damp cloth.

  • Dry the pit well and cover it with a lid once all the moisture has evaporate

      Cleaning the Fire Pit After a Fire

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How Long Does Wood Burn in a Fire Pit?

    It depends on the wood you use for the outdoor fire pit. Typically, hardwoods have a greater burning time than softwoods because the wood fibers are closely intact in hardwood.

    Softwood catches fire quickly, but usually only lasts 25 to 30 minutes before needing to add more wood logs.

    On the other hand, hardwood structures take more time to ignite but burn twice as long. 

    In an ideal structure, you can create the base with softwood and top it with hardwood to ensure the flames last for a more extended period.

    What Type of Wood Is Best for a Fire Pit?

    Hardwood is the best type of wood for a fire pit. They are easy to find and have a greater burning time. Here are a few types of hardwood.\

    • Oak

    • Ash

    • Birch

    • Maple

    What’s the Best Way to Put Out a Fire in a Fire Pit?

    The answer to this question is dependent on the type of fire pit you have. If it’s an emergency situation and you need to extinguish the flame quickly then pouring a bucket of water over an uncontrolled flame will be the fastest way to eliminate any danger.

    Final Thoughts

    To sum up, it is important to stress the fact that you should be super-careful when dealing with fire and should always have the proper gear on hand while handling it.

    Starting and maintaining a fire is no easy task. But with the right technique and an adequate amount of practice, you can become a fire-stoking pro in no time. Making memories is important, but never at the expense of your own safety.

    And if you’re still looking into buying a fire feature for your outdoor living space check out our buying guide on our favorite concrete fire pits. 

    Have fun, and remember to stay safe. And check out our fire pit tips and tricks to enhance your experience further.

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