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Boxhill's Linea fire pit burns bright as the centerpiece on a backyard deck with wooden privacy wall and string lights.

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How to light, start and put out all types of fire pits

A fire pit isn't an especially complex bit of outdoor decor, but it can pose risks if you're not familiar and comfortable with its operation. Well, we're here to help -- this quick handy guide will show you how to use your fire pit safely and effectively, no matter what type of fuel you're using to set the mood in your backyard oasis.

Boxhill's Tao Fire Table

How to start a fire in your fire pit

First, no matter what type of fuel you use, you want to make sure your fire pit can be used safely and legally.

Is your fire pit far enough away from your home, your backyard furnishings, and any other flammable material that might be at risk if the wind picks up or a spark gets away from you? Is it situated on a safe surface that won't be at risk of burning, staining, or other fire-related damages? Great! Let's get that fire started.

Start the Fire: Propane Fire Pits

Most propane fire pits draw their fuel from the standard gas-grill propane tank you'd get at any home improvement store (and at many convenience stores and other retail outlets as well). If you've ever used a gas grill, you know the drill -- turn the knob just a bit to open the flow of propane. You can adjust the knob later, but you'll be fine with a lower flow for ignition.

Most propane fire pits need to be ignited manually, which you'd typically do with a barbecue lighter. They're the extra-long expensive ones that'll keep your skin well away from the fire when it starts up.

You can also try to start a fire by lighting something attached to the end of a long handle, but we don't recommend that approach unless you absolutely must have a fire right away, and don't happen to have a barbecue lighter handy.

Once your fire is lit, you can easily adjust the propane flow with the control knob on your propane tank. If your fire pit doesn't have built-in flame controls, the tank's control knob is your best bet for adjusting the height and/or intensity of your fire.

Start the Fire: Natural Gas Fire Pits

Natural gas fire pits can be started in more or less the same way as propane fire pits, if they're built to do so. However, you may have other options for ignition if you've got a natural gas fire pit.

A gas fire pit may also have a push-button ignition system, which is similar to what you'll find on most modern gas barbecue grills. Once the gas is flowing, you can spark things up by pressing a button. The location of this button will vary based on the fire pit you're using, so make sure to read the manual!

Some gas fire pits use electronic ignition systems. These ignition systems can start a fire with the flick of a switch or the tap of a button. These buttons might even be inside an app on your phone. This is the easiest and safest way to operate a fire pit, especially if you're not comfortable standing near the fire pit to get it started.

Start the Fire: Gel Fueled Fire Features

Gel fuel is somewhat of a cross between propane and wood. The fuel typically comes in cans, which are commonly used on camping trips and at special-event buffets. Simply open the fuel can, put the can in its designated place in the pit, and light the fuel with your barbecue lighter. Some gel-type fire pits can use more than one fuel canister.

Start the Fire: Wood-Burning Fire Pits

Ever started a bonfire or used a fireplace? You've already got this wood-burning fire pit lighting thing covered. Just stack your logs in the center of your fire pit, add any kindling or newspaper or other fire-starting materials, and light the kindling to get things going. You might use lighter fluid to speed things up, but make sure you're done spraying it on the wood before you use your lighter.

How to put out a fire in your fire pit

No fire burns forever. But you have plenty of control over how long your fire pit remains active. Here's how to safely extinguish the fire in your pit when it's time to shut things down for the day (or night).

Extinguish the Fire: Propane Fire Pits

Remember the control knob on your propane tank? Just tighten that knob to shut off the flow of propane to your fire pit. Some propane fire pits may have control knobs of their own, but closing the tank's knob is the only way to prevent the fire from re-igniting later. It's also important to tighten the knob to conserve your propane, since it can be a bit of a hassle, and a buzzkill, to schlep down to the Home Depot for a refill right as your party's getting into gear.

Extinguish the Fire: Natural Gas Fire Pits

Natural gas pits can be shut off the same way as propane pits, if they have the same tank-and-knob setup. In most cases, however, your gas pit will be connected to a natural gas utility line, so you'll either shut it off with whatever mechanism the utility has provided to control the gas flow, or use control knobs built into the pit.

Electronic ignition systems are easier -- just flip the switch back to "off," or press the off
button on your app or remote control. It's more or less the same as turning off the lighting in your home.

Extinguish the Fire: Gel Fuel Fire Features

Gel canisters burn for consistent lengths of time, so in most cases, you just need to wait for the gel fuel to be exhausted and the fire will go out on its own. Most gel fuel canisters come with "extinguisher" or "snuffer" devices that (when used correctly) will stop the flow of oxygen to the fire, allowing you to save some fuel for later. Follow the instructions onthe fuel canister -- which you should've read before lighting it.

Extinguish the Fire: Wood-Burning Fire Pits

Wood can be a bit unpredictable as a fuel source. Some types of wood may burn
longer than others, create larger flames, or require more careful tending. However, any wood-based fire should snuff itself out eventually. To speed up the process, you can use a fireproof cover to minimize the flow of oxygen to the flames. You may also be able to extinguish your wood-burning fire by tossing sand or a similarly dense fire-resistant material over the fire until it stops.

Wood can smolder for hours after they cease to produce any visible flames, so it's a good idea to cover your pit after use to minimize the risks of a flare-up. If your fire pit can handle it, you may even want to pour water over the embers to snuff out any remaining heat that might create subsequent fires while you're not paying attention.

Remember: we're not affiliated with any fire departments or fire marshals, and our advice comes from direct experience with many fire pits, rather than any specific professional fire-management training. If you have any questions about the safe and legal use of your fire pit, please contact your local fire department and/or fire marshal's office.

Don't forget to check out our wide selection of fire pits, and please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions!

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