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Outdoor Gas Fire Pit Clearances and Other Safety Considerations

A DIY backyard fire pit is a simple way to create a cozy and inviting outdoor gathering space. You’re probably already thinking about the size and design you want and what color of shimmering fire glass you’ll fill it with. You can almost feel the warmth of the flames and hear the laughter of your loved ones as you swap stories and sip on your favorite beverages.   

But with outdoor gas fire pits, there’s more to consider than just aesthetics. There’s an element of danger with any fire, and fire pits must be operated responsibly. Here are some key tips to help you enjoy the best fire pit experience and keep you, your loved ones and your pets safe. 

1. Maintain proper clearances for your fire pit. 

It’s a very important safety consideration to have proper clearances above and around your gas fire pit. Choosing the right location for your fire pit is important. To start, look for a level surface that’s in an open area of your yard. Ideally, you’ll want to set up your fire pit close to other backyard areas where you socialize and entertain, such as your pool, patio or outdoor kitchen. 

A question we’re often asked is, “How much clearance do I need to have around my gas fire pit?” It’s a great question. Whether you’re designing and building your own fire pit or purchasing a ready-made unit, it’s critical to maintain proper clearances above, below and on all sides of your fire pit. In this case, clearance refers to the amount of space between your fire feature and any flammable objects such as your house (if it’s wood or vinyl siding), trees and shrubbery, drapes, furnishings, sheds and wooden structures (e.g. kids’ playground equipment). Here are some clearance rules of thumb to follow when planning the location of your fire pit.

Celestial recommends a minimum clearance of 36″ on all sides and 96″ above the burner. We also recommend a minimum clearance of 2″ under your burner pan.

  • On all sides of your fire pit: You should maintain a minimum clearance of 36” between the edge of your burner pan and any flammable materials or objects. If you have outdoor drapes, don’t forget to take the wind into consideration, since it can blow the material towards the fire. Important: Your fire pit should never be placed under a low-hanging tent or near trees/overhanging branches.

    If you’re building your fire pit near purely non-flammable materials such as brick or stone, the 36” clearance rule does not apply. However, there’s a caveat: if you have a brick structure with wood components, you’ll still want to maintain the 36” clearance.  
  • Above your fire pit: While it’s best to install a fire pit in an open area, most gas fire pits rated for under 195,000 BTUs are safe to operate under a structure (such as a pergola) If there is a minimum of 96” (8 feet) of clearance. Take your measurement from the top of your fire pit to the lowest part of the overhead cover. If your fire pit is rated for greater than 195,000 BTUs, it should be installed in a completely open area. 

    Note: If your overhead cover is made of vinyl, we recommend not placing your fire pit beneath it. This is because vinyl is very heat-sensitive. Even with 8 feet of clearance, you run the risk of the vinyl warping and buckling from the heat of the flames. 
Gas Fire Pit Clearances
  • Under your burner: While we tend to think of heat as rising up from a fire, some heat does radiate from the bottom of the burner pan. That’s why you need to maintain a minimum of a 2” clearance between the bottom of your burner pan and other objects. It’s also important to have sufficient air flow in the cabinet of your fire pit. Proper ventilation helps prevent the buildup of heat and gas within the enclosure—which is particularly important with propane-fueled fire features. 

2. Inspect your fire pit before every use.

One of the best things about gas-fueled fire pits is that you don’t have to deal with messy ash and embers afterwards. However, that doesn’t mean your fire pit is maintenance-free. Check your fire pit before using it and remove any debris on top, such as leaves and twigs. A sturdy cover can help keep your fire pit and filler free of debris and moisture when it’s not in use. 

3. Never leave your fire unattended. 

Unlike wood fires that take effort to put out, extinguishing a gas fire pit fire is as easy and convenient as flipping a switch. Never leave your fire pit unattended, even for a short period of time—and never, ever leave it burning overnight. Take that extra moment to extinguish the flames and turn off the gas line. 

4. Monitor children and pets near your fire pit. 

The gentle, dancing flames of a fire pit can seem harmless. But it only takes one spark to ignite a fast-spreading blaze. Be sure to always have an adult present when you’re operating your fire pit around children and animals. Have them stay at least 3 feet away from the fire at all times. 

In addition, when kids are around and your fire pit is lit, avoid overindulging in alcoholic beverages. Drinking in excess can lead to distractions and poor judgement.  

5. Use only fillers approved for gas fire pits.

Do not put real wood of any kind in your gas fire pit. Be sure to use lava rocks or fire glass which are explicitly approved for use as fire pit media. For example, Celestial Fire Glass makes high-quality, heat-resistant fire glass that is specifically designed to be used in gas fire features. 

6. Have a fire extinguisher close by. 

It’s a good idea to have a dry-chemical fire extinguisher (rated Class B or C or multipurpose) stashed discreetly nearby should the worst happen. Make sure you know beforehand how to use a fire extinguisher. The acronym “PASS” is easy to remember, and stands for: Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the trigger gently and Sweep the nozzle in a side-to-side motion. Most portable fire extinguishers have a range of just 6-10 feet. For extra safety, keep a fire blanket on hand as well to help smother flames before they get out of control. 

7. Add a glass wind guard.

A glass flame guard will help to keep the flame contained over your fire pit.  Even in lightly breezy conditions an unprotected flame will blow around and reach outside of your burner pan.  Adding a flame guard will not only make your fire pit safer, it’ll also make the flame more beautiful. 

Having an outdoor gas fire pit comes with some responsibilities. But knowing and sticking to a few basic safety practices can help ensure many years of enjoyment for you and your family. 

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