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How To Start A Fire In A Fire Pit: Guide For All Types

Whether you've planned a bonfire night with your buddies or simply want to hang out with your family in the backyard, starting a fire is usually the first order of business. The way you start a fire in the fire pit will depend on the type of pit.  In this guide, we give you a step-by-step process on how to start a fire in all...

how to start a fire in a fire pit

Whether you've planned a bonfire night with your buddies or simply want to hang out with your family in the backyard, starting a fire is usually the first order of business. The way you start a fire in the fire pit will depend on the type of pit. 

In this guide, we give you a step-by-step process on how to start a fire in all types of fire pits. Let's strike (pun intended). 

How to Start Fire in Wood Fire Pit  

Nowadays, the art of starting a fire has been simplified by technologies such as the use of firelighters. But some people like the traditional appeal of a wood fire pit. 

Before You Begin 

First, you need to choose the right type of wood. Here are the factors to consider when selecting the wood type: 

  • Smoke 
  • Burn speed
  • Heat output

Although these wood types take a bit longer to catch fire, they are usually considered the best for wood fire pits due to their heat output: 

  • Ash 
  • Maple 
  • Oak
  • Hickory 

You can also use softwoods, such as cedar, fir, and pine, in a wood fire pit. They have a fast burn speed and create more smoke compared to their hardwood counterparts, though. So, we would recommend using them to start a fire and then switching to hardwoods to keep the flame going. 

Another thing to consider when choosing the fuel type is the moisture content. Common signs that the wood you're using isn't fully dry are crackling and popping. The fire may also throw more sparks. 

Again, hardwoods are better in this regard because they have a lower moisture content. Alternatively, you can use kiln-dried wood. Since it is pre-dried specifically for fireplaces and fire pits, you won't have to worry about moisture content. 

Building the Fire 

You need four main things to start a fire in a wood fire pit: 

  • Kindling 
  • Lighter
  • Tinder
  • Dry firewood 

Here's how to use these items to build a fire in your wood fire pit: 

  • Start the fire with tinder, which can be any dry material that lights up easily and burns quickly with a lot of heat. Examples of tinder include paper, wood shavings, dry leaves, or bark. 
  • Next, add kindling on top of the tinder to create a teepee, which allows air to circulate and helps the fire grow. Kindling is small sticks and twigs, about the size of pencils. 
  • Put the smallest kindling in the middle of the teepee. Add larger pieces as you work your way up. 
  • Use matches or a lighter to ignite the tinder at the bottom. Since the material catches fire quickly, it will ignite the kindling and start the fire. 
  • Once the fire is going strong, add larger pieces of firewood on top of the kindling and continue building the teepee. Gradually add larger pieces, leaving enough space for air to circulate. 

After some time, the teepee structure you made will crumble. But by that point, the fire will be so strong that it will continue to burn if you add more logs. 

Duration of Fire 

To enjoy a long-lasting fire, start with softwood and then add hardwood, as we mentioned. If you use logs of about 12 to 14 inches in length and about four inches in diameter, you will have to add about four logs every two hours. 

These are just estimates, though. The actual duration of the fire will depend on several factors, such as the type and quality of wood, weather conditions, size of the fire pit, and how well you build and maintain the fire. 

Safety Precautions 

Here are some you MUST follow: 

  • Do not put the fire pit on a flammable surface like a wooden deck.
  • Keep the fire at a safe distance from buildings, trees, and other flammable objects. 
  • Never leave the fire unattended, and fully extinguish it before leaving. 
  • Do not light the fire near long shrubs or a tree with overhanging branches. 

How to Start Fire in Propane Fire Pit

Propane fire pits have made it easier to enjoy a fire without the hassle of gathering wood and starting a fire. So, the process is not as tedious as starting a fire in a wood fire pit. 

Before You Begin

Check which type of propane fire pit you have. There are two main kinds: match-lit and spark ignition. We'll explain how both operate. 

Building the Fire 

If you have a match-lit fire pit, here's how to build a fire: 

  • Locate the gas jet in the fire pit's center. Then, find the control knob and turn it to open the gas line. 
  • Use a long-stemmed lighter or match to ignite the gas. Once lit, adjust the flame to your desired height using the control knob. 

Spark ignition propane fire pits do not require matches. Instead, you build a fire in this fire pit by doing the following: 

  • Turn the gas knob and press the spark igniter button. The gas will flow and light with a spark.
  • Adjust the flame as desired using the gas knob. 

Adding Fuel and Maintenance

Propane fire pits do not require constant maintenance like wood fire pits, but keeping them clean is essential. Check the fire pit's manual for specific cleaning instructions. 

Here are some additional tips to keep in mind when using a propane fire pit: 

  • Always have an extra propane tank nearby if the current one runs out of fuel. You don't want your fire extinguishing unexpectedly. 
  • Conduct thorough maintenance and cleaning of the fire pit at least once or twice a year. 

Safety Precautions 

The safety types for using a propane fire pit are similar to other fire pits. However, there are some specific points you should keep in mind: 

  • Don't cook on the propane fire pit unless it's specifically made for cooking. 
  • If you want to clean the fire pit, let the burner cool down completely before touching it. 
  • Keep the fire pit at least 1 meter or 36 inches away from flammable material. 
  • Always have a fire extinguisher or water source nearby in an emergency. 
  • Make sure the propane tank is always in an upright position. 

How to Start a Fire in a Gas Fire Pit

Starting a fire in a gas fire pit can be a bit tricky, depending on the type of ignition system it has. You might wonder: aren't propane and gas fire pits essentially the same thing? 

In principle, yes. But not in fuel, though. 

Gas fire pits use natural gas, which is cheaper than propane. On the other hand, a propane fire pit uses propane, which produces more heat, is more expensive, and burns hotter. 

Before You Begin 

Like the propane fire pit, check which ignition system your gas fire pit has. Unlike gas fireplaces, gas fire pits do not have pilots. So, you must ignite the burner manually. 

Some modern models have piezoelectric spark generators. They save you from the trouble of using a lighter or matchstick to ignite the fire. 

Pro Tip: Whether it's a natural gas or a propane fire pit, always get your flame going before turning the gas supply on. Otherwise, the gas will accumulate in the logs while lighting the matchstick. When you finally light it, the accumulated gas will ignite with a bang. It could startle, if not burn, you.

Building the Fire

To start the fire in your gas fire pit with a piezoelectric spark generator, follow these steps: 

  • Push the piezoelectric igniter button. As you do, you'll hear clicking sounds, which indicate the release of a spark. On many models, the button is red-colored and located on the control panel.
  • With one finger pressing the spark generator button, use your other hand to push in and turn the control knob to the On position. 
  • Let go of the igniter button when the flame appears. Do not leave the control knob just yet. 
  • Keep the control knob pushed in for about 30 seconds so the thermocouple warms up. 
  • If the flame continues burning, you have successfully started your fire. If it doesn't stay lit, repeat the process from step 1.

For a fire pit without the igniter button, do this: 

  • Light a match or a wand lighter. Hold it above the burner. 
  • Slowly turn the control knob to its On position while keeping the flame towards the burner. 
  • When the burner catches the flame, immediately remove the matchstick or the lighter. 
  • Use the control knob to adjust the flame height. You have now successfully started your fire.

Safety Precautions 

The safety precautions for a gas fire pit are the same as those for any gas appliance. 

  • Always turn off the gas supply when not using your fire pit.
  • Keep flammable materials away from the fire pit and store them in a safe location.
  • Do not place objects on top of the fire pit while it is burning or still hot.
  • Keep children and pets away from the fire pit at all times.
  • Always have someone to monitor the flame and ensure it stays controlled.

How to Start a Fire in Gel Fire Pit

A gel fire pit is smokeless and uses an alcohol-based gel fuel to create a fire. Gel fuel is usually made of isopropyl alcohol. In some cases, organic material is added to alcohol to emulate the look of a real fire. 

Before You Begin

Make sure you have a gel fuel canister designed for use in fire pits. Do not use any other type of alcohol or flammable liquids. 

Building the Fire 

  • Start by removing the lid from the gel fuel can. 
  • Put the open can in the center of the fireplace or any other appropriate location. 
  • Use a lighter or long safety match to ignite the gel fuel by placing it near the can's opening. 
  • The flame will spread quickly, so ensure you are holding the matchstick safely from the can. 

Putting the lid back on the can will extinguish the fire by suffocating the flame. 

Safety Precautions

  • Always use a gel fuel fire pit in a well-ventilated area because gel fuel produces carbon monoxide, which can build up and cause harm. 
  • When using a portable or freestanding gel fuel fire pit model, place it on an even surface before lighting it up. 
  • Wash your skin if you come into contact with gel fuel. Also, change your clothes if they are splashed with it. Wash them well to get rid of the smell. 
  • Do not store gel fuel in high temperatures or near an open flame. 

By now, you should know how to start a fire in any type of fire pit. Enjoy your evenings and outdoor activities with a warm and cozy fire pit! Don't forget to be safe, though.

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