Once upon a time, summertime backyards were furnished with simple basics like aluminum folding chairs, charcoal grills, and plastic coolers. In recent years the trend has moved toward transforming a home’s outdoor space into another “room” of the house. Yards are now often decked out with trendy and comfortable patio gear: deep seating, pergolas, kitchens, and even day-beds, turning our humble lawns into private sanctuaries.
What’s not to love about the movement toward more outdoor living space, as long as we are aware of the safety concerns surrounding one of it’s most popular elements: the fire pit. We all love gathering with family and friends in the warm glow of crackling flames, reflected in the fact that fire-pit popularity has been growing for decades. The American Society of Landscape Architects has predicted that in 2018, for the fourth year in a row fire features will be the most requested outdoor design element.
Growing Popularity Has Sparked An Upsurge in Injuries
With the increase in recreational fires, emergency room visits for burns from fire pits and outdoor heaters have nearly tripled since 2008. As reported by NBC News and according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, at least 5,300 people in the U.S. were treated for these types of burn injuries in 2017; a quarter of those patients were under the age of 5.
Protect Your Guests and Yourself
If you’re planning to add a portable fireplace or fire pit to your property, be sure that you first understand your state and local siting and building codes. It is also very important to review your homeowner’s insurance to find out if a fire feature requires additional coverage.
Before lighting the tinder, check with local authorities for up-to-date information about permitting, seasonal policy, daily restrictions, and burn bans. Although it’s common for recreational fires to be allowed without a permit, it’s still the responsibility of the individual to obey location and building requirements and be aware of any overriding local policy.
Common sense goes a long way toward accident prevention, but even if your fire is allowed and you’ve exercised exemplary caution, accidents can still happen, and you may be responsible as a result.
Here are some basic safety tips:
- Check the weather, and extinguish your fire if it becomes windy.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing while cooking or attending any open fire.
- Always supervise both fire and guests, never leave either unattended.
- Set rules and discourage the resident firebug from poking and overbuilding.
- Use a spark screen.
- Keep children and pets at least 3 feet away.
- Burn only dry seasoned hardwood, avoid damp or resinous wood, and never burn garbage.
- Do not use hydrocarbon fuels or accelerants such as gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, or aerosols.
- Be ready with an emergency suppression plan and equipment: garden hose, bucket of water, fire extinguisher.
- Never extinguish by burying: sand and earth can insulate embers for over 24 hours.
- Before retiring the watch, extinguish your fire thoroughly with water, and spread and stir until cool to the touch.
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Remember, most serious burns are sustained by contact with day-old embers, or the hot surfaces of assumed-to-be extinguished fires.
Be safe and enjoy the ambiance!