Starting A Fire In A Fire Pit
There are so many ways to start a warm and inviting blaze in your fire pit. We want to show you some easy and safe ways to light your fire pit!
Regardless of your fuel choice, there are different methods to get those flames burning. Let us walk you through the top five most popular ways of starting a fire, beginning with wood kindling methods and leaving off with ignition systems for gas features!
When deciding on an area for your outdoor fire pit, it is imperative that you avoid enclosed or unventilated areas and overhanging tree branches. Make sure you have at least 36 inches (or 3 feet) of clearance from the sides of your fire pit to any combustible structures. Please check with and adhere to your local fire safety codes! Not all areas approve of the use of a fire feature in outdoor areas (this applies to both wood and gas burning options).
*Take a look at this Outdoor Fire Pit Guide by our friend Greg to help with building, safety, and information on your fire pit!*
1. Let's Get This Fire Started Right Now
The more traditional way of starting a fire is easy but can be time-consuming. This is the way that some would have learned when youngins' from their parents or even during scouts. If you haven't learned this skill, let us show you the way.
Start first by gathering dry firewood (the drier the better):
- tinder (pine needles, birch or cedar bark shavings, cattail fluff, or even cotton balls and dryer lint)
- kindling (small sticks, twigs, and wood splinters - approximately 1 inch in diameter)
- firewood (seasoned logs or slab wood)
- Begin by making a generous pile of tinder.
- Stack the kindling over this top (smaller pieces first), pyramid style, leaving enough room to light the tinder within.
- Using a long-stemmed match, light the dry brush. (You can experiment with more primitive forms of fire lighting, such as flint or fire sticks, but we feel a match is the most practical in a backyard setting.)
- Add the larger pieces of kindling until you have a nice blaze going, and then add logs or slabs.
You'll need to add more wood as the evening goes on to maintain your fire. You may want to consider using long arm fire gloves or log grabbers to safely add your fire logs. This traditional method of lighting a fire can be very rewarding and enjoyable for many people, giving them a sense of a true great-outdoors experience!
2. Boo-ya! Let's get lazy!
This method eliminates the gathering of tinder and kindling!
Pine cones fire starters (this is your "tinder") can be found locally or online. You can also gather natural versions from the woods or your own backyard. Please note that the pine cones you may find outside must be completely dry in order to be effective. We highly recommend Loblolly and short or longleaf pine cones (broad shapes with fanned out scales) versus sugar pine cones (long and slender with tight scales).
Fatwood (consider this your "kindling") is made from split pine tree stumps. They contain naturally high resin content, and as the wood hardens, the sap concentrates to become a flammable fire starter.
- Lay a dry pine cone in the center of your fire pit. Light it with a long-stemmed lighter or match.
- Place 2-3 pieces of fatwood in a crisscross pattern over top of the pine cone.
- As the flame starts to become more robust, place a fire log or slab wood over top.
Continue adding wood to maintain the flames. For your safety and protection, long arm fire gloves are recommended. This is a very quick and easy way to get a fire going in your fire pit. We love the fact that the natural pine resin is the catalyst for the flames instead of harsh chemicals or lighter fluid.
3. Logs On Fire
This stainless steel burner pipe is a super easy, effective way to get your fire up and running within seconds, even if your wood is slightly damp! This method completely eliminates the need for tinder and kindling! You will need to have a dedicated fuel line running to your fire pit, equipped with a safety valve and accompanying key for simple turn on/shut off operation. It is also required that you have a log grate to cradle your firewood above the log lighter. This allows for appropriate oxygen flow, which further promotes a safe ignition and cleaner burn!
- Stack your firewood on the log grate in your fire pit. Remember to keep the gas off while performing this task!
- Once you are ready to light a fire, slowly turn the valve key. Gas will enter the log lighter and begin emitting through the precision drill portholes.
- With a long-stemmed lighter or match placed just under the center of the device, ignite a flame.
- Please remember to shut off the gas and remove your key as soon as your wood is burning!
This propane or natural gas-fueled igniter must be used in co-ordinance with your local fire codes. We highly recommended having a certified gas professional install this device for you, as fuel line installation can be tricky!
4. Push The Red Button
You may not have convenient access to firewood, or perhaps you experience sensitivity to the smoke associated with wood blazes. You can still enjoy a fire pit in your outdoor living space with a gas-fueled system! As always, remember to check with your local fire safety codes regarding gas features before considering the installation of a natural gas or propane fire pit.
Many of our ignition and burner systems come fully assembled and ready for your gas professional to install. Once the connection is complete, the operation and maintenance are quite simple. A push-button ignition system contains control components within a valve box. It is battery operated, making this the ideal solution for areas that do not have electrical power!
- Press the control knob to begin the flow of pilot gas. At the same time, press the ignition button to generate a spark.
- Release the spark button after the pilot ignition has occurred; then, release the valve control knob after about 20 seconds.
- Turn the control knob counterclockwise to light the main burner.
- Flame height can be adjusted by turning the valve control knob. If the loss of flame occurs, the system will turn off the gas flow.
- Simply turning the knob to the OFF position will shut down the burner and cease gas flow.
It is important to get the correct burner size in coordination with your choice of a standard or high capacity ignition system. Too small of a burner could result in unsafe back pressure of liquid propane. Too large of a burner could result in a very weak flame height.
5. Where's The Clicker?
Designed with all the safety and convenience features in mind, this innovative way of lighting a fire in your backyard fire pit is probably one of the easiest methods around! If you prefer a gas-burning feature in your outdoor living space, this electronic remote controlled ignition system is the way to go! Again, remember to check with your local fire safety codes regarding gas features before considering the addition of a natural gas or propane fire pit. Remember to seek out a professional to have this ignition system installed!
- Using a remote control, turn the system ON.
- An initial safety check is administered before beginning the flow of gas. Within 5 seconds, the hot surface igniter begins to glow, igniting the pilot flame.
- Once the system detects the pilot flame, the gas that is flowing into the main burner is ignited.
- To turn the system OFF, use the remote control.
Flame-sensing technology constantly monitors the flame status and internal temperatures/voltage. If the flame should be extinguished for any reason, the system will turn off all gas flow and then automatically try and restart. If unsuccessful after a few attempts, the gas flow is shut off completely.
Now that we've explored all five ways to start a fire in your fire pit, which do you feel is right for you? Whether you choose a wood or gas burning feature, you'll want to make sure that your ignition method is one that is safe and reliable. If you haven't considered the log lighter for your wood-burning fire pit, you may want to give it a try! It is a fast, efficient, and dependable way to light seasoned wood!
4 DIY Fire Starters for the Fire Pit
For this DIY trick, you may have to do a little shopping unless you have a woodworking shop. You’ll need sawdust, candles, and something flammable to put it in, such as paper muffin wraps, cardboard egg cartons, or snack size cardboard boxes. Fill your container with sawdust, but don’t pack it in too tightly. Then, pour hot wax over it and allow it to harden. If you’re using an egg carton, you can cut it into individual fire starters once it’s completely cool.
The sawdust is very flammable and so is the wax, but the wax will slow the burn down long enough for the wood to catch fire. And, you don’t have to stick to just sawdust! Paper, cardboard, or any other flammable material will work.
Lint and Toilet Roll Fire Starter
This DIY firestarter project is very similar to the one above, and you get to recycle! Instead of tossing your used dryer lint, save it in a grocery bag along with your paper towel and toilet paper rolls. Save your newspapers too, or useless print outs from the office, because when it comes time to pack up the camping gear and go into the great outdoors you can use it all!
Loosely stuff the toilet paper rolls with your dryer lint—you don’t want it to be so tightly packed in that it doesn’t burn—and then wrap the toilet paper roll in a newspaper. The newspaper, or junk office paper, just keeps everything in place so that it’s easier to pack. You can even stuff the inside of the toilet paper roll with newspaper if you run out of lint.
Second-hand Paper Towels and Cooking Oil
Never sure what to do with your used cooking oil and paper towels? We have an idea! After dinner, put your used paper towels and the oil you cooked together in a container. The paper towels soak up the oil, both of which are highly flammable, and make a great campsite fire starter. Many people choose to wait a few days so that the oil dries up and is less messy, but you can do this at the camp as a way to eliminate waste. You can use this fire starter for your fire pit as well, so at the camp or patio side, you’re good to go!
The Second Helping of Food Fire Starters
While you can use some of the methods above to reuse and recycle, you can do the same thing with foods. Many foods are actually flammable, which may be why kitchen fires are so common. But, you can use some of your leftovers to help get the fire going! Fill a paper bag with the leftovers that are flammable, twist the top into a tip and place the bag beneath your wood or other fire media. Light the makeshift tip of the paper bag and then step back!
Curious about what will work? Check out some common food fire starters:
- Potato chips
- Coffee creamer, dried
- Dried milk
- Orange peels (plus this smells great!)
- Peanut shells
It’ll cost more to go to the store and buy the ingredients for a leftover food fire starter, but when you’re at the awkward point that there’s not enough flour to cook with, but too much to throw away, hang onto it! It has a use around the campfire.
Bonus: Essential Oil Pinecone Fire Starter
The outdoors smell great, but sometimes it’s nice to add a unique touch. Making a scented pinecone fire starter is a great way to do that and it’s an easy project. You’ll need pinecones, thread, wax, and essential oils. For this, it’s best to get unscented candles or wax from a craft store so that the scent of the wax doesn’t conflict with the oil.
Melt your wax in a dedicated saucepan and then add the essential oil of your choice. For a stronger scent, add more oil! When the wax is completely melted, tie a length of thread around the pinecone and dip it in the wax. Once the pinecone is thoroughly coated hang it up so that the wax can harden. Some DIY crafters choose to coat it several times, but it’s up to you and how many fire starters you plan to make!
Once the wax is completely dry you’re ready to go! Just pack them up (carefully so that the wax stays in-tact) and head out.