October and November are normally the months when the weather begins to transition from cool to cold in many parts of the United States. Building a nice, toasty bonfire in the backyard is a great way to take some of the chill out of the frosty air. Of course, where there’s fire, there’s also the potential risk of a disaster occurring. The following tips can ensure a safe, fun evening while gathered around the bonfire with family and friends.
Choosing a fire pit — Unless you have a huge backyard with multiple acres of property, you’ll probably be using some type of fire pit for building your fire. Whether you prefer a built-in or portable model, be sure to select one that isn’t too large for the area. The pit should be at least 10 feet away from structures and combustible materials. Also make sure you have room for a seating area that is large enough for proper comfort and ventilation.
Check the weather — Make sure you check the forecast before lighting your fire. You’ll want to avoid starting a bonfire during extremely windy conditions, as a strong breeze could blow sparks onto nearby surfaces or people.
Starting the fire — Never use accelerants such as gasoline or lighter fluid to start or re-light your bonfire, as these create fumes, and could even cause the fire to burn out of control. Use a lighter to light crumpled pieces of paper covered with small sticks to get the fire started, and then add larger sticks and eventually a log or two to keep it burning. Never throw fireworks, batteries or other combustible items into a burning fire.
Have proper fire extinguishing equipment nearby — Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, garden hose and water source nearby in case of an emergency. Avoid fulling up a bucket of water, as that creates a prime mosquito breeding area. Instead, fill a bucket with sand. Sand can be used as an alternative to water to help extinguish a fire.
Wear appropriate clothing — Wear non-flammable clothing when starting, sitting by or extinguishing the fire. Also wear hard-soled shoes instead of rubber sneakers or flip flops, as leaping sparks could cause them to ignite. And never go barefoot around a bonfire!
Keep an eye on alcohol consumption — If you and your guests are enjoying an adult beverage or two around the bonfire, be mindful of your consumption. Too much alcohol can lead to clumsiness and careless behavior, such as getting too close to the fire or tossing in the wrong items.
Closely monitor children and pets — Kids and pets are likely to be attracted to your bonfire. Teach your kids a safe path to walk that keeps them far away from the burning fire. Fit your pets with glow-in-the-dark collars to more easily track their movements, or better yet, keep them inside.
Putting out the fire — When the evening is winding down, and you’ve let the fire burn out, use a shovel to spread out the ashes and let them cool down. Slowly pour water over the ashes and monitor them closely to be sure that no burning embers remain. Place the cooled ashes in a metal can that is designated for ash storage only.
Don’t forget to check to see whether your municipality has any rules in place regarding backyard bonfires. The last thing you want to do is start a fire during a burn ban!
Bonfire Mosquito Prevention Tips
Mosquitoes can linger well into October in many parts of the United States and southern portions of Canada, and they’re likely to be attracted to the burning fire. The best way to keep this from happening is to prevent a mosquito infestation on your property in the first place. Activating an effective mosquito trap such as a Mosquito Magnet® trap in early spring and keeping it running through the fall season can dramatically reduce the mosquito population on your property. Have fun while gathered around your bonfire this fall — and stay safe!