Outdoor gas fire pits are fun and convenient, but you should never lose sight of the fact that they are gas appliances and should be treated with caution. Therefore, a few safety checks are always a good idea to ensure your evening runs smoothly and ends safely.
- Read the owner’s manual. Not all fire pits are the same. It will be time well spent. Reading the instructions before you start using it, can help you avoid big—potentially life-threatening—problems down the road.
- Keep the area clear. Make sure there is at least 8 feet of clearance above and at least a 3-foot clearance on all sides. Local ordinances and the owner’s manual may have different guidelines.
- Follow local law and dictates by your insurance company. Rules and guidelines vary from place to place. Make sure you are following all those that apply to you.
- Keep the gas supply turned off (at the supply line for natural gas and at the tank for propane). Even if the valve to the fire pit is off, things can shift, and leaks happen so it’s safest to turn the gas off at the source.
- Look before you light. Make a quick inspection of the fire pit making sure vents in the structure are free of debris and that nothing has fallen into the burner area.
- Keep your fire pit covered to avoid getting the fire media wet and/or debris in the fire pit.
- Never light the fire pit if you suspect the fire media is holding moisture or if there is moisture visible in the burner pan. High heat can cause certain media to expand causing a potential explosion, and sending bits and pieces into the air.
- Do not use it in high wind conditions. Aggressive wind could potentially push flames into something flammable causing a fire.
- Never leave the fire pit unattended. As with any type of fire, someone needs to be nearby to act if the fire gets out of control.
- Never put anything into a gas fire pit but approved fire media. Do not throw paper, leaves, wood, etc. into a gas fire pit.
- Keep a dry chemical fire extinguisher nearby. And make sure you know how to use it. You may never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you had one. Water will not work in this situation.
Additional Safety Tips for Propane Gas Fire Pits
Propane fire pits have a few additional things to keep in mind where safety is concerned.
- Check the orientation of the tank. A standard 20-pound propane tank should always be stored and used in an upright position. The safety release valve is located on the top of the tank to release excess gas to maintain a safe pressure. If the tank is turned on its side, that valve is now positioned to release liquid propane instead. A small amount of liquid propane makes a huge volume of flammable gas and the potential for an explosion greatly increases. If your fire structure is too short to stand the tank upright, consider getting a horizontal propane tank or storing the tank away from the fire pit being careful to secure the hose so it won’t be a trip hazard.
- Make sure the air mixer is installed correctly. Sometimes people attach it facing in the wrong direction and that can cause a dangerous backflow of gas.
- Make sure the layer of fire media over the burner is not too thick. Propane is heavier than air and pools when released. A heavy layer of media can trap the propane causing a build-up that may flare up in a dangerous manner.
Form Good Habits
After you’ve run through this checklist a few times, it will become second nature. It will take very little time to execute, but it pays off big in safety dividends.