Whether you want to enjoy light conversation with friends or even enjoy toasty marshmallows, it’s a plus to learn how to start a fire in a fire pit. Starting a fire is quite an easy task, however, it's important to master the skill. After all, you need to observe fire safety and even pick the best tools to start and maintain the perfect fire – no matter your intended activities for the evening.
So below, we've shared a step-by-step guide on how to start a fire in a fire pit. Along the way, you will even find trivial handy tips such as choosing the right tools and materials to help you start and maintain the perfect fire.
What Type of Wood is Best for a Fire Pit?
Most wood can be used to light a fire. However, experts normally take the time to choose the right wood to maintain the best heat output, burning speed, and even, smoke release. Whilst you consider the properties of the wood, you must also consider the condition of the wood. For example, you can find the same type of hardwood with a wet and dry batch.
Sure, they will have the same characteristic since they are the same wood type. However, during the burning process, they will exhibit different behavior due to their state. For example, dry wood can cause inefficient combustion which causes increased popping, cracking, and sparking due to the interior steam pockets created by poor combustion releasing pressure as they burst.
Furthermore, dry softwood is known to exhibit this behavior than dry hardwood. However, in general, the best type of wood for a fire pit is hardwood options such as hickory, oak, maple, and ash. But, due to their denser build with more packed fibers, they take longer to burn (you can use a fire starter to speed up the process).
On the other end, softwood such as pine, cedar, and fir are good as fire starters and for fueling. However, they are not the best firewood as they burn faster and release more smoke.
How Long Does Wood Burn In A Fire Pit?
The duration to which your firewood burns depends on the conditions and fire pit design. There's no doubt that hardwood burns slower than softwood. With the right setup, you can have the same wood-burning for about 2 to 3 hours for a 4 feet wide pit. To get this result, use large wood logs (measuring at least 12 to 14 inches) – start the fire with softwood and continue to maintain it with at least 4 to 5 logs of hardwood.
Steps to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit
When starting a fire in a fire pit, you want to follow four main steps. These include:
The first step involves the preparation by putting together items need to start the fire. Materials needed to start the fire include a fire starter, tinder, kindling, and firewood.
A fire starter is what you actually use to physically light up a flame – this can be anything from a kitchen or camp lighter to matches, electric arc, or butane torch lighter.
When starting the fire, you will not automatically light up the firewood. Instead, you will use what’s known as tinder which can be anything from leaves to papers, pine cones, or tree barks.
You can even invest in commercially available fire starters to slight up the flames on your fire pit.
The next item to complement tinder is kindling. It refers to the lighter dry sticks or wood that will keep the fire building and going long enough before the firewood starts burning. Kindling can be anything from dry sticks, twigs, or softwood such as pine, cedar, or fir.
Last on your list is the firewood you will use as the foundation of your fire to keep it going through the night. The best wood option is kiln-dried hardwood types such as oak, hickory, maple, ash, or birch.
The next step involves starting the fire. To properly start the fire, you want to follow the key steps outlined below:
- Pile up your tinder in the size of your palm at the bottom center of the fire pit
- Place the kindling directly above the tinder – lay the kindling in a circular style as if you are building a pyramid – making sure you leave small gaps to allow for air penetration
- Using the fire starter, light up the tinder and kindling pile
- As the fire spreads and starts to burn the kindling, start placing the firewood into the fire pit. Place them in the same manner and structure as you did the kindling to form a second pyramid-like structure. To keep the fire going, you want to keep the firewood close enough whilst leaving small air gaps to allow for sufficient air flows.
Building a fire pit fire doesn't end with simply tossing the firewood on top of the kindling. Instead, you want to continue maintaining the flame if you want to keep a strong flame throughout the night. If you don't notice enough flames and the firewood is struggling to burn, add more tinder and kindling.
If the firewood is burning fast, crumbling, or turning black, rotate it to keep it burning efficiently. You need to maintain a balanced supply of firewood, kindling, and tinder to maintain the flame without suffocating it.
When you are done, you shouldn't leave the fire pit without putting the fire out. To put out a fire in a fire pit, follow the steps below:
- Use a hose or water bucket to faintly spray the fire with water – don’t pour or spray too much water as this may damage the pit
- As the fire slowly dies and the wood turns into ash, use a shovel to mix the ash with some lingering embers until you no longer hear any hissing fire sounds
- Carefully touch the ash and feel for any heat using your palm. If all is cool, dispose of the ash.