How To Start A Fire In A Fire Pit

While you might think starting a fire is easy, there is a particular knack to it if you want to be a traditionalist. It is also essential to consider your safety when building a fire in your fire pit. Learning to get your fire going easily with good pieces of kindling and tinder and not having to rely on lighter fluid or flammable liquids will mean you will quickly have a burning fire, which means you are soon relaxing with your friends and creating some cozy memories.

The Basics

Before placing firewood inside your fire pit, wipe dry the inside with paper or cloth. Moisture tends to accumulate inside fire pits, especially if they are left outdoors. Collect the tinder and kindling and fuel you will need for your fire. Make sure the tinder and kindling are dry. Such things as newspapers, dry pine needles, and straw make excellent tinder for starting a fire in your fire pit.

Kindling generally consists of thick sticks or twigs. The kindling and good tinder are the essential fire starter items. These should burn long enough for the fire pit logs to start burning. It is helpful to have a layer of smaller diameter timber pieces to start with to build up the heat. Fuel is the large firewood that will keep the fire burning – it must be dry and not green otherwise, it will not burn well in the fire.

Fire pits need oxygen to stay lit. If you stack your firewood so that it can breathe, the fire is more likely to be sustainable. To start your fire, use either a teepee design or log cabin design for the kindling. This provides the right opportunity for air to enter and pass through.

Another good tip is to make sure that you have the fire going before your guests arrive. Having the fire pit with a beautiful wood burning fire already underway is one sure method of making your guests feel welcome, and the smell of an open fire is very heartening.

Fire Safety

Fire safety is paramount when using fire pits or campfires. Before you start a blaze in your fire pit, check the local weather forecast and don’t use your fire pit on unusually windy days. The wind can make it hard to light the fire kindling and could blow sparks to surrounding brush or structures. Even high humidity can make it challenging to create and maintain a fire.

Never light your fire pit when it’s underneath the overhang of a building or beneath trees. Make sure the immediate area around the fire pit is clear of yard waste and other flammable materials. Keep chairs at a safe distance from the fire pit and make sure your hair is tied back and sleeves are rolled back when you are tending a fire. Teach children to stop, drop, and roll if ever their clothing catches on fire.

To start your fire, use long safety matches or a long-nosed lighter to light the newspaper and kindling. Avoid the use of lighter fluid to get your fire going.

Always monitor your fire no matter the size of the flame and be ready to extinguish the flames at a moment’s notice. When you have a fire outdoors, you should make sure you have a shovel and water at hand just in case. You may also want to invest in a fire blanket, which can quickly smother a blaze.

What Is The Best Thing To Burn In A Fire Pit?

Seasoned firewood is a better option than green firewood because seasoned means it has been left out to dry for an extended period, so the moisture from the tree’s cells and its sap have evaporated from the timber. Green firewood has been freshly cut. Firewood is not considered fully seasoned until the moisture content is below 20 percent. In reality, this involves a significant amount of time to achieve.

The cut pieces will need to be stacked in a dry location – perhaps a log cabin – and left to dry for about a year. You will find that properly seasoned timber will be lighter and harder than green wood. You will also find that there’s less consumption with properly seasoned timber. 

Inconsistencies With Seasoned Firewood

Suppliers of firewood may not always be able to provide adequate shelter for the wood, and although the timber has lost its green color, it still may not be suitable for creating a good burning fire for your fire pit or campfire. It may have been regularly rained on, and while the outsides of the woodpile will dry out in the sun, the wood in the center of the pile could contain mold and fungus. Poorly seasoned wood will smoke very badly.

Additionally, the burning of wood types that contain pitch/sap and other naturally occurring substances can also be a factor in excess fire pit smoke. Improper stacking of wood during the fire building process that causes fuel to smolder instead of burn can also contribute to the amount of smoke you may experience. Get your fire off to a good start by ensuring there is no old ash, embers, or other debris accumulated in your fire pit from previous fires that could slow the ignition of your current fire.

An Optional Alternative

An alternative to seasoned wood is kiln-dried wood, which has had the moisture removed through a kiln. The process involves debarking the harvested timber, which is then sorted into relative types, sizes, and shapes. Similar sized pieces are put through the kiln in batches and then dried to equal moisture levels.  

Kiln-dried firewood is ready to burn immediately in your fire pit, and because the moisture content is so low, smoke is minimal. Another benefit of kiln-dried wood is the elimination of insects and mold from the wood due to the high-heat production process. This type of wood will be more expensive to purchase, though, because of the processes involved. Ensure you have a dry place to store your kiln-dried wood or just order what you think you will use in the near term.

Starting A Fire 

Begin by placing the tinder in a small pile at the bottom of the firewood pit and form the kindling in a teepee-like structure over the tinder pile. Light the tinder to start your fire, and once the kindling is burning, begin adding seasoned or kiln-dried firewood logs one at a time. Introduce smaller pieces to the fire until the heat builds up.

The firewood placement should be a similar structure as your kindling, either a pyramid or teepee shape. Keep the firewood close enough, so the fire stays concentrated, while leaving small gaps to maximize airflow. If the firewood is having trouble catching fire or the flame is burning out, try adding additional tinder and kindling.  

Types Of Wood To Use

A good fire starter wood burning type is softwood. Softwoods like pine, juniper, balsam, spruce can burn very hot for short periods, making them an excellent choice for starting the fire.

Properly seasoned hardwoods will burn much longer and hotter than softwoods, so they are suitable to use when the fire is well underway. When prepping your woodpile, understand what timber you are working with, and the time it takes to season after being freshly chopped.