Lighting up the night with a fire pit? Here’s how to stay safe

As the fall weather temperatures continue to drop, many people are looking to light up their fire pits and enjoy the dancing flames.

But before owners ignite their gas pits or load a log onto their wood-burning pits, the Takoma Park Police Department is warning them of the safety risks.

“This is the time when people have family over for Thanksgiving, Hannukah and Christmas and sometimes they want to sit around the fire pit,” said Cathy Plevy, the department’s public information manager. “I just like to remind people that there are strict guidelines.”

The city follows the recreational burning statutes enacted by Montgomery County. Plevy said burning household trash, tires, and construction debris is prohibited and could lead to fines.

Before inviting over guests and getting the flames going, Plevy said there are a few important safety rules to keep in mind.

First, check in with Mother Nature.

“Be aware of the weather, because if it’s really windy out, it’s going to burn those embers into other trees,” she told WTOP.

Next, clear away any debris like paper and leaves from fire pits. Also, they should be placed at least 10 feet away from any home and structures like sheds and garages.

Also, make sure small children and pets stay a safe distance away. More than 6,000 fire-related injuries involving fire pits or outdoor heaters were reported in 2021, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Many of them involved children.

“Don’t leave (the fire) unattended when you have children and pets, obviously because they don’t know and they’re going to try it every single time,” Plevy said.

“Put them on a lawn chair and back them up.”

She also suggests offering children longer marshmallow roasting sticks, if s’mores are on the menu.

Once the gathering is over, fire pit owners should safely discard of the ashes.

Montgomery County’s Department of Permitting Services recommends dampening, cooling and storing ashes in a metal container that’s used only for ash storage. Ashes that are two or three days old may appear to be safe but can still retain enough heat to cause an unwanted fire or burn.

Plevy’s last piece of advice: Fire pits aren’t designed for bonfires.

“You don’t want to use accelerants or anything that’s going to cause a big flame to go up,” she said. “It’s really for some pieces of wood and sitting around and having a good time.”

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up