Are Portable Fire Pits Safe? How To Make It Safe & Prevent Disaster!

close up of a guy carrying a safe portable fire pit and walking from the waist down

Nothing feels cozier in autumn weather than huddling together with friends and family around a live fire. Because portable fire pits are convenient to build, they are gaining popularity. But how safe are they?

Portable fire pits are safe when used correctly. Ensure they are placed on a level surface and away from flammable materials. You should also use wood as a fuel source because it is considerably safer than propane or natural gas. 

This article will cover all the safety considerations you should consider when using portable fire pits. I’ll also go over steps you can take to ensure your safety. 

Factors That Impact Safety When Using Portable Fire Pits

Here are some factors to consider when using a portable fire pit to ensure that everyone is safe and sound. 

Fuel Source

Most portable fire pits nowadays can be fueled using propane or natural gas, but you can also use wood logs. While propane and gas may be more convenient to set up, wood is by far the safest option. 

Location of the Fire Pit

Because you are using a portable fire pit, its location can be changed at your discretion. As such, it is critical that you choose the location of the fire pit wisely to ensure that it is not a fire hazard. The location of your fire pit should be:

  • on a flat (level) surface.
  • in a well-ventilated area.
a guy carrying a wood-burning portable fire pit down to a campsite

Placement of Seating Around the Fire Pit

When you’re gathered around a fire pit, you should aim for a balance between proximity for coziness and distance for safety. In other words, ensure that seating around the fire pit is far enough to keep everyone safely away from the fire while allowing them to enjoy its warmth. 

Wind Direction

As with any fire pit (portable or not), wind direction plays an important role. It is a general rule that guests should sit upwind of the fire pit, so try to position the seating as such. Otherwise, the wind could blow embers toward people around the fire pit, which can lead to a fire if flammable materials are kept close by.

Flammable Surroundings

Lastly, you should ensure that you are only setting up your portable fire pit in a position that is not surrounded by highly flammable materials. 

For example, if you’re going hiking in a forest with lots of dry bushes, you shouldn’t build your portable fire pit anywhere in that area. Basically, don’t build it anywhere you aren’t allowed to have a barbecue. 

How To Stay Safe When Using a Portable Fire Pit

Now that you know all the different aspects related to safety when using a portable fire pit, here are a few ways to make sure that you are safe and prevent a disaster:

1. Use Wood Instead of Propane or Gas

Firewood is less convenient than propane or gas, but it is much safer to use because the fuel is limited. Additionally, dry firewood burns cleaner than propane or natural gas. 

Using wood means you don’t need to lug around a flammable propane tank. The only fuel is the wood inside the fire pit. Try to use dry wood logs to avoid smoke and sparks to avoid respiratory problems and igniting any surrounding furniture.

It’s important that you only use dry firewood and avoid using any softwoods like pine and cedar because they tend to create a lot of embers that spark and are a fire hazard. Here are a few types you may want to consider:

  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Birch

Do not use wet firewood, even if it is of the types mentioned above. Do not use lighter fluid to start the fire, as it is extremely flammable. Softwoods are considered unsuitable as firewood in general, whether for a fire pit or a fireplace. 

2. Make Sure the Surface Is Level

Before you begin setting up your portable fire pit, ensure that the surface below it is level. 

If you don’t have access to a spirit level, you can use a water bottle to figure out whether the surface is level or not. Simply place the water bottle on the surface sideways, and watch if the bottle rolls. If the water bottle rolls, there is a slope which can be very dangerous when a fire pit is built over it.

Additionally, it’s best if the surface you build your portable fire pit on is sturdy and can withstand heat for prolonged periods.

3. Be Careful About What’s Around the Fire Pit

It should go without saying—always keep flammable materials at a distance from any type of live fire. Generally, this means carefully choosing the furniture surrounding your portable fire pit and wearing sensible clothing. Your clothes shouldn’t have any hanging sleeves, and it’s also best to avoid nylon and other highly flammable fabrics.

If you intend to toast smores (or anything else), make sure none of the food drips into the fire pit, and use long sticks to keep your distance from the fire. Keep all the furniture at a safe distance as well. Try to invest in flame-resistant furniture to be on the safe side. 

4. Store a Fire Extinguisher Nearby

Government safety regulations usually dictate that you must have a fire extinguisher nearby when installing a permanent fire pit. While these regulations do not apply when you are building a portable fire pit, they still make sense. 

Educate yourself on the proper way to use a fire extinguisher and ensure that it is always full, and renew it accordingly. You may never actually need to use it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

What to Look for When Buying a Portable Fire Pit

If you’re confident that you can stay safe while using a portable fire pit, it’s time to go shopping. Here are a few things you may want to consider:

How Portable is it?

Some models can be dismantled and moved to a new place but are still very bulky. Other models go the extra mile and include collapsible legs for more convenience. If you plan on moving around a lot, the SUCHDECO Portable Fire Pit on Amazon folds up and even comes with a handy carry case.

Also, note the total weight of the fire pit. Although you want it to be sturdy, you won’t consider it portable if it is too heavy to move around.

Smokeless Vs. Regular Fire Pits. 

Portable fire pits nowadays include models that produce almost no smoke for the most part, such as the smokeless Breeo 22 inch fire pit. These smokeless portable fire pits can be more expensive but are worth the investment, especially if you have respiratory issues. We love Breeo! Here are a few other sizes, finishes, and models they offer, all available on Amazon.

However, keep in mind that smokeless fire pits are typically heavier, making them more difficult to carry around. Consider which feature is more important to you, weight (portability) or smokeless fires.  

Read User Reviews: Cleanup, Heat Distribution

It’s always a good idea to read online reviews of products before you commit to a purchase. Look for comments on how easy or difficult clean-up is. Some fire pits are more difficult to clean, making them a nuisance to use. 

You can also search for user reviews mentioning any issues with heat distribution. Ideally, the fire pit should be designed in such a way that heat flows around it freely, and wind should not drastically affect it. 

Final Thoughts

A portable fire extinguisher is safe to use and brings a lot of warmth to the outdoor spaces of your home. Use it correctly, and you have nothing to worry about regarding safety. Make sure to use dry firewood and brush up on safe practices regarding fires.

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