On cool nights, nothing beats a fire in the backyard. Whether it’s a campfire on the ground or contained in a fire bowl, the flames are irresistible. Those irresistible flames are also a potential source of danger.
Having a fire contained within a fire bowl creates a false sense of security. While it is safer than building a fire in the middle of your lawn, fire bowls aren’t disaster-proof. If you use any kind of contained outdoor fire, here’s what you need to know about fire safety.
- Don’t add fuel to a gas-powered fire bowl
If your fire bowl is gas-powered, don’t add any additional fuel like lighter fluid or alcohol. If the fire isn’t burning hot enough, high enough, or long enough, it’s likely a problem with the unit (or the remote) and you need to contact the manufacturer.
The other possibility is that your gas supply is low (as with an LPG cylinder) or damaged/obstructed if it’s hard-wired.
- Never allow young kids to light or tend the fire without supervision
If you’re going to allow younger children to start or tend a fire in your backyard fire bowl, always provide close supervision.
It’s important to teach your kids fire safety skills, especially for managing commonly used items like barbecue grills and fire bowls. However, younger kids should be supervised at all times when lighting or tending to any kind of fire. No matter how much training they’ve had, they will lack the experience required to help them make fast decisions in an emergency situation.
- Keep your fire bowl at least 15 feet away from your home
Fifteen feet is the ideal safe distance between your fire bowl and your house. If you can move it out even further, that’s better.
Many people prefer to have their fire bowl right on the front porch where they can sit under the overhang and enjoy the fire. This makes sense, but it’s a bad idea. If anything happens to create a fire, your house will catch on fire fast.
If you have a small property and the only flat, level surface is on your porch, make sure you always have a couple of fire extinguishers, a fire blanket, and at least five gallon of water within reach.
- Don’t. use treated wood in a wood-burning fire bowl
Bowls that burn wood create a stronger connection to the Earth and can make you feel like you’re on a camping trip or a vacation away from city life. However, treated wood should never be burned – not in a fireplace, a wood stove, or an outdoor fire bowl.
Burn only dry, seasoned wood. If you have to burn wood that hasn’t been seasoned, you won’t get as much heat. However, unlike a wood stove, you don’t need to worry about creosote build-up from burning wood that isn’t fully seasoned.
There are a host of other things you should never burn in your fireplace or fire bowl, including dryer lint, accelerants, and plants like poison oak/ivy.
- Keep your fire bowl in an uncovered area
It’s tempting to put your fire bowl under some kind of shelter, but that’s an invitation for carbon monoxide poisoning. Anytime you burn wood, you’re creating byproducts that include carbon monoxide (CO), which is deadly.
Unfortunately, CO is invisible, odorless, and tasteless and is only detectable with a carbon monoxide monitor.
What makes CO most dangerous will probably shock you.
Even after flames have been extinguished, hours have passed, and your fire bowl is cool to the touch, it’s still producing carbon monoxide.
One man learned this the hard way when he and his partner brought their barbecue – cold to the touch – into their tent to protect it from the rain. The barbecue hadn’t been active for several hours, but it was still producing enough carbon monoxide to kill the man’s partner.
- Don’t leave a fire burning or smoldering unattended
Don’t walk away from your fire bowl until the fire is completely out. A smoldering fire can be rekindled into flames from the wind and from the redistribution of oxygen when burned wood settles.
Make sure you’ve completely extinguished your fire before going back in the house. You can put out the fire by using water, sand, or placing a cover over the top to cut off the supply of oxygen.
If you’re going to let a fire burn out on its own, be willing to babysit the process until the fire is completely out.
You can’t take too many precautions
Although manufacturer defects occur, most fire-related accidents happen because of carelessness. With a keen awareness of fire safety, you can prevent most of these accidents.