How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit

Starting a fire in your backyard fire pit is not as daunting as it may seem. This post provides all the steps and tips you need to safely start a fire in your backyard fire pit, from gathering supplies to creating a proper wood-burning or gas-powered structure.

You'll learn everything from gathering necessary supplies and preparing the fire pit area to create a proper wood-burning or gas-powered fire structure and getting that cozy flame burning safely.

Did you know that nearly half of all home fires occur during the winter months? This makes understanding how to properly start and monitor your outdoor or indoor fires crucially important.

"How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit", will ensure you're well-equipped with knowledge on maintaining safety while enjoying the warmth of your own backyard blaze. Keep reading for step-by-step instructions!

1. Gather Necessary Supplies

Gather all the supplies needed for starting a fire before proceeding. No shortcuts here; be sure to prepare adequately.

The Basics

You're going to need kindling (small sticks and twigs), matches or a lighter, and tinder (dry leaves, grass, bark).

If your backyard isn't overflowing with natural materials like these, don't worry. You can find high-quality fire starters online that will do the trick just fine.

A Little Extra Never Hurts

In addition to those basics, consider having some larger logs on hand as well as an outdoor bucket of water for safety purposes. It's wise to be prepared, just in case.

2. Prepare Fire Pit

Before you even think about striking a match, let's talk about preparing your fire pit. Before you begin the process of lighting a fire, it is essential to ensure that your fire pit has been adequately prepared.

Clear The Area

Your first step is to clear away any debris from around your fire pit. Fallen leaves? Move them out of there. Twigs or branches? Nope, they need to go too.

This isn't just for aesthetics - it's crucial for safety reasons too. You don't want anything flammable near your fire pit.

Check Your Ground Level

The next thing on our checklist is ensuring that your fire pit is on level ground. This may seem like an unnecessary detail but trust me; it can make all the difference between a relaxing evening by the fireside and calling 911 because of an unexpected fire breakout.

If you're using a portable fire pit, this becomes even more critical since uneven ground could cause it to tip over - not exactly what we're aiming for here.

Safety Distance

Apart from clearing debris and checking ground level, ensure that your fire pit is at least 10 feet away from any structures or combustible materials including trees, fences, or outdoor furniture.

Some local regulations require greater distances, so always check with local ordinances before setting up.

Create A Safe Perimeter

  • Cordon off an area around the perimeter of your fire pit with stones or bricks - these will serve as visual reminders keeping people (especially children) at a safe distance.
  • You might also consider investing in a spark screen if one didn't come with your unit - this helps contain sparks within the confines of the fireplace itself.
  • Last but certainly not least, have a water source nearby in case things get out-of-hand - better safe than sorry.

In Summary:

Preparation matters when dealing with open flames. By taking the time to prepare properly before starting a blaze in the backyard ensures both fun and safety coexist harmoniously together.

3. Create a Fire Structure

You've got your supplies and prepped the fire pit, now it's time to build a masterpiece of flames.

The secret sauce here is all about air circulation.

Air Circulation Is Key

Your fire needs oxygen to thrive, so don't just dump everything in there haphazardly. You need structure.

We're not talking Frank Lloyd Wright levels of architecture here, but think more along the lines of Lincoln Logs or Jenga.

Start with your tinder - crumpled newspaper works great - at the bottom center of your pit.

Add Kindling In A Teepee Shape

This isn't just for aesthetics; this shape allows for optimal airflow. Arrange smaller sticks around your tinder like you're building a teepee (or pyramid).

If you're feeling unsure, check out this guide for visual instructions.

Now that we have our kindling set up nicely over our tinder, let's add fuel to the mix by placing larger pieces of wood over our kindling setup.

Remember. Don't smother it - leave space between logs for air flow.

And voila. You've built yourself a top-notch fire structure ready to be lit.

Keep in mind that creating an effective fire structure requires patience and practice. But once mastered, it will provide you with cozy fires every time.

4. Light the Fire

You've gathered your supplies, prepared your fire pit, and created a solid structure for your fire - great job. Time to commence.

Ignite Your Tinder

The first step in lighting any good fire is igniting the tinder. Grab those matches or lighter you have at hand and set that tinder ablaze.

Be persistent; it may take a few attempts. Remember: patience is key when dealing with fire starting basics.

Nurture The Flame

Once your tinder has caught flame, let it work its magic on the kindling before adding more fuel to the fire.

This isn't an action movie where things explode instantly; building a good fire requires some finesse and careful attention.

Add More Fuel Gradually

Avoid dumping all of your wood onto the flames at once as this could smother them. Instead, add pieces gradually while making sure there's enough space for air circulation - remember oxygen is one of our three essential elements needed for the science behind fires.

Maintain Control Over The Flames

Your goal here should be creating a controlled burn rather than an uncontrollable blaze (unless you're trying out for "Survivor", but we'll assume not).

Tend To Your Fire Consistently

Fires are like pets; they need constant care and attention. Keep tending to yours by adding more wood as necessary until you achieve desired heat levels or size.

Celebrate Success But Stay Vigilant

Congratulations. You've successfully started a fire in your pit. However, keep monitoring closely because safety always comes first when handling open flames outdoors.

5. Monitor Fire

Fire is a good servant but a bad master, as the old saying goes. Watch it carefully.

Keep an Eye on It

Never leave your blaze unsupervised - that's the primary precept of fire pit security. Even if you're just stepping away for more marshmallows or another log, always have someone keeping watch.

The National Park Service agrees: Fires can spread quickly and unpredictably.

Douse Any Sparks

If any sparks escape from your fire pit, immediately put them out with water or sand. A single spark can ignite nearby dry grass or leaves and cause a wildfire.

Avoid Windy Conditions

Pick calm days to light up your fire pit - wind can blow embers into areas where they could start unwanted fires.

Maintain Control Over Your Fire Size

Your bonfire doesn't need to be seen from space. Keep it small enough that you can easily control it - usually knee-high is plenty big enough for most purposes.

Have Water Nearby

You should always have some form of extinguishing agent close at hand when you're burning a fire - whether that's water, sand, or even a commercial extinguisher designed for outdoor use. The Red Cross recommends this too.

Cool Down Before Leaving

Last but not least, never walk away from hot ashes. Make sure everything has cooled down before leaving the area unattended. This might take longer than expected, so plan accordingly and don't rush things.

FAQs in Relation to How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit

How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit:

Starting a fire in a fire pit is easy-peasy: gather dry wood and kindling, arrange them properly inside the pit, light it up safely, and keep a close eye on it.

How to Keep a Fire Going in a Fire Pit:

Maintain your fire by adding more logs when needed, but don't go overboard and turn your fire pit into a raging inferno.

How to Start a Fire Pit with Real Wood:

Get your fire pit roaring by layering newspaper, small twigs (kindling), and larger pieces of wood, then light the paper and watch the flames gradually catch onto the logs.

How to Start an Outdoor Fire:

Starting an outdoor fire is similar to starting one in an indoor fireplace: gather your materials, build a structure for efficient burning, and make sure you're taking all the necessary safety precautions.


In conclusion, starting a fire in a fire pit is a piece of cake. Just gather your supplies, prep the pit, build a fire structure, light it up, and keep an eye on it.

By following these steps, you'll be basking in the warm glow of a crackling fire in no time. Whether you're hosting a shindig or chilling solo, knowing how to start a fire in a fire pit will take your outdoor experience to the next level.