How to Start a Bonfire

How to Start a Bonfire

Fire Pit Safety

Before we dive into different types of DIY fire pits and how to start a fire pit fire that everyone in the family will enjoy, it’s important to understand some basic fire pit safety precautions. This is especially important for parents of young children and homes with a fire pit close to their dwellings. A few precautions to consider when enjoying your backyard fire pit include: 

  • Safe placement of your fire pit

  • Understanding what you can and can’t burn in your backyard fire pit

  • How to safely start and put out a fire in a fire pit

Keeping your friends, loved ones and your home safe when burning a fire in your fire pit is a top priority. Of course, understanding the do’s and don’ts of your backyard fire feature is also crucial to keeping everyone safe and enjoying your new fire pit. 

Safe Placement of Your Fire Pit

Safe Placement of Your Fire Pit

Place your fire pit on even ground, at least three feet, or 36 inches, away from flammable structures and objects such as trees, shrubs, sheds, decks and homes. Depending on the size of your outdoor fire pit, you may want to keep it at least 10 feet away from any other objects.

Ensure nothing is sitting above your home fire pit as high-reaching flames can ignite low-hanging branches or shrubs. Whether you’d like to build a large fire feature or a tiny patio fire pit, always be sure to check with local fire codes and regulations before settling on a permanent location for your new features.

Even a small outdoor fire pit can be a hazard when it’s not placed in a safe location around your property. 

Understanding What You Can and Can’t Burn in Your Backyard Fire Pit 

You’ll only want to use the materials that are designed for being burned in your outdoor fire pit. Almost every home fire pit is designed to burn either wood or gas as its primary fuel source. Loose debris such as leaves or paper can be easily scooped up and carried away by the wind, creating the potential for wildfires and other hazards. 

How To Safely Start and Put Out a Fire in a Fire Pit

Avoid using lighter fluid or gasoline to help you start a fire. Using these household fire starters can cause issues such as explosions and dangerously large flames that will reach other areas around your property and backyard. Likewise, understanding how to properly put out a fire burning in your fire pit is equally important to the safety of your home and loved ones. 

Always ensure your fire pit fire is completely out before going inside for the night. If you’re using a propane or natural gas fire pit, you’ll want to turn off the gas and check to make sure the flames are out entirely. 

If you have a simple wood fire pit set up with no other fuel source, then the best way to put out your fire pit fires is to douse the flames, spread the ashes around the pit and repeat until the ashes are cool to the touch. Be sure there are no signs of smoke or smoldering flames before going inside for the night. 

Just in case you need to put a fire out immediately, you’ll also want to keep a hose, a bucket of sand or dirt and a fire extinguisher nearby as you enjoy your backyard fire pit fires. We also carry a variety of fire pit snuffers and covers designed to put your fire pit fires out and keep them out. 

Commercial Fire Starter

I’m going to come clean — nine times out of 10, I’m using a ready-made fire starter I bought at the store. They’re quick and easy, and I usually keep a box in my camper van. (Don’t worry, it’s completely safe as long as I keep them away from open flame.) Most of these fire starters — like a box of these, made of sawdust and wax — cost between 10 and 45 cents per use.

My rating: 5 out of 5 roaring campfires.


Dried Kindling/Tinder

Kiln-dried firewood is best for most recreational fire situations. Placed in a climate-controlled kiln, the wood dries in super-charged fashion, with its moisture content falling below 20 percent in a matter of days. With less residual water trapped inside, kiln-dried kindling will catch easier and quicker, often with just a little shredded newspaper to get it going.

My rating: 4 out of 5 roaring campfires.

Step 2: Preparations

Once the fire is going, it’s too late to move it away from the side of the barn, off of the natural gas line, or to tell the police that you just dropped your cigarette. Do some thinking about what the fire is going to be like, and how it is going to behave. You need space. Depending on the size, a comfortable standing distance around a bonfire can be 50′ away! Anything within that range will be very hot for an extended period of time. The leaves on any trees overhead will die. Even if the flames do not touch them, the superheated air will kill them. Make sure the car is moved out of the way, and there is nothing flammable within that range (including plant matter.) Air is not a stationary force in your fire either. The wind can wreak havoc on a poorly made structure, and carry sparks into that gas can you thought was put away “well enough.” Keep track of the wind, and if it is very windy, give up or be prepared to spend all night tracking down unwanted island fires. Also be aware that the heat of the fire penetrates into the ground and kills all the microbes necessary for other things to grow. There will be a bald spot where the fire was for a very, very long time. To help avoid this, you can lay down a tarp and cover it with lots and lots of dirt to shield the actual ground from some heat. The bigger your fire, the wider and thicker the dirt pile should be. Blah, blah, fire-extinguishers, blah, blah, water, blah, blah, stupid drunk people… If you need help with this part, stop reading and get the fire department to sponsor your party (they will probably be happy to, but they will drink all your beer.) Be aware that there may be restrictions on fires depending on where you live, and it is your responsibility to find that out.

Step 5: Construction: Log Cabin

The log cabin is a synthesis of the pyramid and the tepee which is a variation with its own pros and cons. Picture a square, hollow pyramid. If you only use two logs on each level, you can stack it up higher, and there is a huge column of air which can move quickly up the middle to burn from the inside out. Inside of this, set a tepee fire with an opening to light it parallel to the to large logs on bottom supporting the pyramid. The tepee will light first and catch the bigger log cabin structure. The more stable log cabin can also help to catch a log that falls out of the tepee, but be aware that if one log in the pyramid gets knocked out, burns through, or rolls out, everything above it comes rolling off onto your foot!

Bonfire safety guidelines

  • Check the weather. Never build a bonfire on a high-wind night.
  • Make sure the area where you start your bonfire is a legal location. Check your state’s laws and regulations about fires before you begin.
  • Keep a bucket of water or garden hose nearby in case the fire begins to spread. It is important to be prepared in case of emergency.
  • Keep a close eye on the bonfire as well as children nearby. This will help protect others around you.
  • Do not burn aerosols, canisters or anything containing foam or paint. These types of chemicals have extremely flammable ingredients that can cause fire to spread or produce toxic fumes. Containers of these products could explode, causing injury.
  • Ensure the wood you are burning is dry and seasoned. This means no railroad ties, nothing coated or treated and no furniture should be thrown in the fire.
  • The pile shouldn’t be bigger than 5′ x 5′ to keep the flames containable.
  • After the bonfire is done, turn over the charred materials with metal shovels and rakes, and douse the area with water.

Can I have a bonfire in lockdown?

Coronavirus (COVID-19): please do not light bonfires or burn garden waste at this time. It may be harmful to people living nearby with breathing difficulties. Instead, please keep your garden waste, compost it, or set up a garden waste collection.

STEP 3: Light the Fire

Now it’s time to enjoy the results of your labor. Remember to keep children and pets safely away, then light your tinder. For best results light the tinder from several sides. Don’t squirt charcoal lighter fluid into a fire; flames could travel up the stream and burn you. And NEVER use gasoline!

Once your campfire is established, feed it with additional wood as needed, taking care not to build the flames too high. Be sure to keep your fire extinguishing tools nearby, and never leave a fire unattended, even for a moment.

What should I bring to a bonfire?

What To Bring To A Bonfire Party: 10 Essentials Camping Chair. When going to a fire, you need a place to sit. S’mores. S’mores are an absolute guaranteed great item to bring. Adults Beverages & Soda. Usually, bonfire guests are a mix of adults and kids. A Dish. Extra Food Supplies. Blankets. Long Sleeve Clothing. Bug Spray.

Stay protected

If you plan on having a bonfire this summer, talk to your independent insurance agent about insurance coverage you may need to protect your family, your home and your assets. Looking for insurance guidance? Find an agent in your area.


Sources:Mosquito Magnet Living the Country LifeFarm Bureau Financial Services

LC 2018-304


How to Build a Campfire

There’s something about getting a fire start

There’s something about getting a fire started in the wilderness that’s satisfying on the most primal levels. When you’re out for a week of backpacking, that fire may be the closest link to civilization for miles. Getting a fire started, though, takes more knowledge than just stacking some wood and sticking a lit match near it. If you’re planning on cooking over your flames with some camping cooking gear, then you have to do even more planning. We tested a few different preparation methods to find the best options for every campsite. Next time you’re getting ready to heat up some fireside coffee or grill the catch of the day, you can do it over the perfect campfire.

Tinder and Kindling

A roaring campfire doesn’t start out strong enough to eat huge logs. You have to build your fire from a few sparks and some kindling and keep it well tended to get that hotbed of coals. Then you’ll be ready to burn the big logs. Selecting tinder can be as simple as pulling some dried bark off a dead tree (if one is around). However, we prefer to leave nothing to chance so we always bring our own. If you want to impress your friends, pick one of Light My Fire’s Tinder on a Rope. These tinder sticks are up to 80% resin from Montezuma pine wood, so they’ll burn even when wet. Paired with a set of UCO’s Titan Stormproof Matches, you’ll have a small blaze going in no time.

Kindling, which is tucked under your firewood, is
Kindling, which is tucked under your firewood, is an essential fire-building ingredient.

For the more DIY inclined, take a look at your dryer lint at home. A handful of that stuff with a couple of drops of hand sanitizer will light up incredibly fast and will definitely score you a few mountain-man points with your buddies who were less prepared.

You can also create kindling by “shaving&#82
You can also create kindling by “shaving” down larger pieces of wood.

Now that you’ve got your fire-starting gear, it’s time to prepare your fire pit. What are the goals? We’ve tested four different ways to set up your wood and get things burning, so whether you’re looking to build that perfect bed of coals for marshmallows or have eyebrow-singeing flames, we’ve got you covered.

Types of Campfires

Austin Parker/The Manual
Austin Parker/The Manual

Tipi Fire

The tipi is your basic fire that every Boy Scout learned how to light. It’s also the foundation to get started on the others we’ll show you. It looks just like it sounds. Lean your wood together to shape it into a Native American-style tipi, leaving plenty of room for air and your matches. You can scale a tipi fire from the small kindling and tinder starter core all the way to massive bonfires and everything in between. We prefer to build the small kindling tipi and then build an outer one of larger wood around it to get things burning quickly. The tipi is perfect when you need even heating and quick lighting.

Austin Parker/The Manual
Austin Parker/The Manual

Lean-To Fire

When things are hard to start because of wind or dampness, the lean-to is your go-to fire. Start by building a windbreak out of a few of your larger sticks and logs. Get your mini tipi set up on the leeward side. Then, lay longer sticks out above your core fire, stacked on the windbreak. This will allow your small starter fire to breathe without getting blown out. When it is finally exhausted of smaller fuel, it will be strong enough to start burning some of the preheated larger sticks in the lean-to. And, it will be ready to stand up to the wind and weather. An added bonus of this fire is that your windbreak will serve as a good heat reflector, so it is a good option for cooking.

Austin Parker/The Manual
Austin Parker/The Manual

Star Fire

If you’re looking for a fire that will slowly burn through the night with little maintenance, look no further. To get things started, fire up your mini-tipi again, and then insert larger split logs in a five-point star. The fire will burn outward, so all you have to do to keep it nice and compact is slowly feed your logs into the flames. If you’re working with a campsite or backyard fire pit, this is definitely your best choice, as you can let the logs just slide down into the center as they burn down.

Austin Parker/The Manual
Austin Parker/The Manual

Log Cabin Fire

Due to its symmetry when built well, this is your choice to get a perfect bed of coals to roast marshmallows, hot dogs, and tin-foil dinners. When you’ve got your kindling tipi built, start stacking larger logs on either side, alternating like an old Lincoln Logs kit. When lit from the bottom up, it will create an excellent bed of hot coals for cooking. Alternatively, you can build it like more of a pyramid, stacking the largest logs on the bottom and then building your core tipi at the very top. This fire will slowly and evenly burn down the pyramid.


  • Be very careful to not get too close to the flames. The same precaution goes for pets as well.

    Thanks! Helpful Not Helpful 3



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