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Backyard Bonfire Safety Checklist

When the scorching sun of summer starts to fade and the leaves begin to fall, it's easy to start thinking of how best to enjoy the cooling temps.

Backyard Fire Safety

One of the more popular ways to relax and unwind in the fall and winter with family and friends is around a cozy, blazing backyard bonfire. It's easy to imagine a chilly night snuggled up with your favorite beverage and a bag of marshmallows that are just begging to be married to some chocolate bars and graham crackers!

But before you strike that match and start drooling over the idea of some homemade s'mores, it's good for you to know a few tips that could keep you and your loved ones safe.

  • Check your local city, county and neighborhood rules and laws to make sure you are in compliance. You may need a permit before you build a fire.
  • Check the weather to be sure it's not going to be a very windy day or night or if there are any fire advisories for that day.
  • Ensure your selected area for your bonfire is on even ground and far away from nearby woods or dry grasses. If there are grasses within 10-15 feet, it's best to scrape those away. Embers can carry in the wind.
Backyard Fire Safety
  • Be sure your selected area is also away from your house, garage, trees and fences by at least 10 feet. Keep in mind that you should not have anything like a deck or a tree branch above your bonfire either.
  • Select a wood that's safe to burn. Dry wood works best and is easier to light. Never use pressure-treated lumber in your bonfire as it breaks down as arsenic in the ash and is poisonous to people and animals.
  • Determine how you are going to contain your fire. Whether it be with a ring of medium stones or in a clean, upcycled oil drum barrel - it's best to have that planned out ahead of time.
  • If digging a pit of any kind for your bonfire, please avoid roots, especially pine. They can cause a slow smoldering root fire that can go for days or weeks and eventually pop up some place above ground.
  • Never use a flammable liquid like gasoline, kerosene or lighter fluid to start your fire. Use long matches or a kitchen lighter to light your kindling if you're using wood.
  • Wear snug sleeves or short sleeves shirts and try to avoid open-toe shoes and sandals if cooking.
  • When roasting marshmallows or any other treat, use long, extendable stainless forks with insulated handles designed for open fire roasting rather than "old school" sticks.
Backyard Fire Safety
  • Keep other flammable objects (paper, plastics, fabrics, etc. ) away from the open flame. Never throw any paper or household products into the flames as they could release toxic chemicals.
  • Consider if you and your guests will be seated or standing and select chairs based on their ability to withstand heat.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher and extra water or garden hose not too far away just in case of emergency. A shovel is good to also keep nearby in case you need to shovel dirt on top of a fire that gets out of control.
  • If children and pets will be around, make sure adults are supervising the bonfire area at all times. Never leave your fire unattended.
  • Make sure all children know how to "stop, drop and roll" in case of a clothing fire.
  • Be sure to totally extinguish any flame before you end your night of entertaining.
  • Keep in mind that after a bonfire, ashes can remain hot for days depending on the size of the fire.
Backyard Fire Safety

Hopefully, this handy checklist will ensure you have a safe and memorable time outdoors enjoying the toasty ambiance of a backyard bonfire. There's no better way to enjoy nature during this special time of year with your family and friends!

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