Okay, I'll teach you how to start a fire in a fire pit.
But first, let me say this:
Pyromaniacs of the world unite!
May you’re flames never sputter, and your action figures melt like butter!
Whether you want to roast marsh mellows with your family in the backyard, or you need a nice, controlled flame for your naked pagan fertility ritual, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to start a fire in a fire pit, including what you need, where to get it, and how to stay safe.
I’ll even teach you how to make use of the ashes when you’re done!
1. Hardwood Logs (A few big pieces, minimum.)
Hardwoods like oak, hickory, ash, birch, and dogwood make the best fires.
Because hardwoods are so dense, once you get them lit, they burn hotter and for a longer time than an equivalent amount of softwood (like pine).
I’ve used pine before.
It sucks because it burns so fast, you have to constantly feed the fire to keep it going, leaving very little time for canoodling (or whatever the hell else you younglings do).
Here's some good hardwood, if you need some.
Do NOT use construction lumber of any kind.
Modern construction lumber is treated with chemicals to protect against mold and termites, and if you burn it, you’ll be inhaling toxic fumes that can turn your lungs into Swiss cheese. Don’t be a sucka!
You can get suitable firewood from any home improvement store, and sometimes the grocery store.
You can also find people on Craigslist willing to sell you their hardwood (Hey, stop that snickering!)
The good folks on craigslist tend to sell it for insanely cheap prices compared to store-bought firewood, or they give it away for free just to get rid of it.
If you live near a forest, you can collect it yourself. Just make sure you do it many months before you need it so it has time to become seasoned.
“Seasoned” simply means that its been cut and allowed to dry for at least 6 to 9 months. That’s how long it takes for the majority of its sap and water content to evaporate, making your logs lighter and easier to catch fire.
No matter how long you season it, big hardwood logs can be difficult to light directly. A match or butane lighter usually won’t do the trick.
That’s where kindling comes in!
"Kindling" refers to smaller pieces of wood that burn easily.
Because its so small, it may not burn for a long time, and that’s okay. Its only purpose is to burn hot enough and long enough to set your hardwood logs ablaze.
The best type of kindling is called “fatwood,” which you can buy at any home improvement store or online.
These small pieces of hardwood are infused with resin. That resin makes it even easier to light, and helps it burn longer than normal.
When you’re thinking about how to start a fire in a fire pit, know that fatwood is the key!!!
Here’s an amazon link for some good quality fatwood kindling.
3. The fire in your heart! (Or a lighter, or a box of matches. Whatever.)
Step 1: Arrange your logs in a tic-tac-toe formation.
If you’ve never played tic-tac-toe, then you must have spent a lonely childhood in the wilderness far removed from civilization.
The upside is that you already know how to survive and I should be reading your blog.
Step 2: Place your kindling in the center and stand it up.
This will create maximum air flow and allow the burning sticks to reach many parts of your wooden tic-tac-toe logs.
Step 3: Layer more logs on top in the same criss-crossed manner.
(Optional Step 4): Throw some potato chips at the base of your kindling!
Potato chips are delicious, but they’re also crispy and oily, which makes them great for starter fuel. Seriously, try it!
Step 5: Light that mother.
If you used potato chips, light the chips. If not, then light the base of the kindling.
As long as you've got good kindling, you shouldn’t need lighter fluid.
Lighter fluid can damage the finish on your fire pit, so if you use it, try to use the minimum amount necessary.
Step 6: Strip off your clothes and dance wildly into the blazing night, you godless pagan weirdo, you.
In a perfect world, we’d play the fiddle and let that sucker burn forever, but alas, that’s not practical. Plus, your neighbors would probably complain.
1. The best way to put out a fire in a fire pit is by letting the fuel (your logs) burn themselves out.
Use a large stick or a shovel to separate your remaining logs, which will speed up the process of them going out by themselves. If you don't have time for this, you can...
2. Pour water over your fire.
Make sure not to lean directly over it or you’ll get scalded by the steam it produces, and try not to get splashed!
After dousing your fire out, use a stick or small shovel to push all the coals and pieces of wood around, making sure all of it gets wet, not just the red hot pieces.
But water is precious, so as a third option, you can...
3. Shovel dirt on top of your fire, smothering it like Commodus did to his father in Gladiator.
This is a bit messy in my opinion, but it comes in handy if you don’t have water to spare.
Do NOT wait until just before leaving to put out your fire.
Put it out early, so you can make sure its cooled down before you leave.
Only butt-heads who don’t know anything about "how to start a fire in a fire pit" douse it, then immediately walk away, leaving their fate and that of the surrounding environment to chance.
You should also walk around looking for any sparks, embers, or pieces of hot wood that may have escaped your fire pit and landed nearby.
In dry enough weather, these tiny little b*stards can start huge wild fires, so stomp those suckers out!!!
Of course they are! Then again, even a sfork isn’t safe in the hands of a madman.
But you’re not a madman, and a fire pit is not a sfork, so here’s a few more tips to help you not set your wang on fire...
1. Use a fire pit screen!
Fires are beautifully hypnotic, but they make sparks which can fly up and set things on fire that shouldn’t be on fire, like your roof!
The average cost of a house in the United States is close to $300k, according to Zillow.
A good fire pit screen cover is $100 or less, making it one of the best investments you can ever make.
This one come with its own lifter so you don't burn your phalanges.
2. Keep your fire pit away from the house, or any other structures that can catch fire.
Place it at least 15 to 20 feet from your house, or any other flammable structures like trees, bushes, garbage cans, or your neighbors car.
The more distance you place between your fire and everything else in the world, the safer you’ll be.
3. If you’re placing your fire pit on a concrete patio (or any other surface you don’t want to destroy), make sure to use a fire pit pad!
Did you know that when concrete dries, it contains tiny bubbles of trapped air, and if you heat that air enough, the gas will expand causing your concrete to explode?! Its true!
This is easily solved by using a fire pit pad, which is a thick sheet of fire-resistant material you place underneath to protect the floor from damage.
They’re insanely cheap, especially considering how much money you’ll save in home repairs.
An added bonus is that it stops bar-b-cue grease drippings, overly melted marsh mellows, and pieces of black coal from staining your floor!
Unless you only plan on using your fire pit over dirt and sand, make sure you have a good fire pit pad.
This one gets great reviews and withstands temperatures of up to 1800 degrees fahrenheit!
Wood ash contains a lot of potassium, as well as other nutrients essential for gardening. Mix it into your flower bed as a fertilizer, or pour some on top of your compost to balance its ph!
2. Bug Repellent
Slugs and snails hate ash because its too dry for them to move through. Sprinkle it around your garden and you’ll stop those slimy suckers in their tracks.
If you pour it on an ant hill, the ants will have trouble removing it and will be forced to relocate.
3. Ice Melter
Wood ash contains potassium salt, so pour it on that slippery ice outside your home BEFORE you break your ankle!
Mastery of fire separated humans from the rest of the animal kingdom.
It allowed our ancestors to survive the ice age, cross the Bering Land Strait, and colonize the entire world.
Learning how to start a fire in a fire pit isn’t just a fun activity to do on the weekend.
Its a right of passage that brings you in touch with your ancestors who sat around their own fires thousands of years ago, telling stories, smoking god knows what, and burning whatever the marshmallow equivalent was back in the day.
(Bugs doused in honey? Who knows.)
(And try not to start any freakin wild fires, okay?!!)
Some of the links on this site are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.
But I promise I'll NEVER recommend anything that sucks!