Consumer Reports: Outdoor fire pit safety

Nothing says fall like gathering around a campfire. And with many people staying close to home and socially distancing, it's no wonder online searches for fire pits have been twice as high compared to previous years.

But before you break out the marshmallows, Consumer Reports says a few precautions can go a long way in creating safe and fun outdoor memories.

Gathering around a fire with family at a distance may be an ideal Labor Day activity.

It's festive, fun and relatively inexpensive. But every year more than 5,000 people end up in the emergency Room with fire pit or outdoor heater related injuries.

The experts at Consumer Reports share some fire pit safety tips to prevent those accidents from happening.

"Ideally, you want to place fire pits or chiminea away from any structures, your house, any sheds, anything that could possibly burn. Go at least ten feet away and preferably up to 25 feet," said Consumer Reports Home Editor Tobie Stanger.

Raising your fire pit off of the ground is ideal. But be sure to follow the maker's instructions about how high it should be, and what surfaces can be underneath.

"You want to keep the fire away from anything natural that can burn, trees bushes and so forth," Stanger said. "Clear over head so the smoke can rise up. Keep in mind, you don't need spark to start a fire. If the brush is dry and brittle enough the heat alone can ignite it."

Consumer Reports says different types of wood create different types of fires. Avoid softer woods like pine or cedar because they tend to smoke and spark. Instead, choose woods that burn longer like hickory, oak or ash.

"And the best thing about hickory is that it has that wonderful campfire smell," Stanger said.

Once you've got a crackling fire, place a spark screen on top of the pit and keep a garden hose nearby to handle anything that gets out of control.

When it's time to call it a night, spread out the coals, ash, and any unburnt logs in the thinnest layer possible. Then, set your garden hose nozzle to a wide-spray and saturate the area until the embers die.

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