How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit – 4 Simple Methods, Tips & Tricks

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Oh, the feeling of sitting around a fire, on a chilly summer eve, and basking in the fluttering flames of a campfire.

Campfires are a great way of spending quality time with friends and family in the evening. You can warm up, cook food, and grill s’mores! There are many different types of fire pits to choose from: tabletops, raised, in-ground… However, not everyone is born knowing how to start a campfire. Let’s find out how to start a fire in a fire pit.

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Tip: When choosing a location for your fire pit, avoid enclosed or unventilated areas and tree branches hanging above at all costs.

There should be at least 36 inches of distance on all sides of your firepit with any combustible structures. Also, not all locations allow fire pits, so check with your local fire safety codes.

Fire pits should never be placed less than 25 feet away from any permanent buildings, such as your house for example.

Never let a fire pit burn out of control – when in doubt, kill the fire. In fact, it is a good thing to always have a bucket of water handy next to the fire pit in case of emergency. Safety first!

How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit

Method 1: Starting a Fire in a Fire Pit Without Any Harmful Chemicals

Pick a safe location for your fire pit. Then, you will need to gather a few supplies before you attempt to light a fire in a fire pit:

  • Firestarter (could be a kitchen match or a lighter, but more specialized products are also available, like an electric arc or a butane torch lighter)
  • Tinder (leaves, pine cones, tree bark, newspaper, pine needles, bark shavings, cattail fluff, cotton balls, dryer lint… anything non-toxic and dry)
  • Kindling (small pieces of wood, small branches, twigs… anything just about 1 inch in diameter)
  • Logs of firewood (larger logs of wood. These can usually be acquired at a local store, or location-dependent, gathered by yourself)

Step 1: The first thing you’re going to do is make a pile in the center of your fire pit with the tinder you gathered. Build the pile of tinder until it is around the size of your palm.

Step 2: Place the kindling you found on top of the palm-sized tinder into a pyramid, at a 35-degree angle. Add the smallest pieces in first. The structure you create with the kindling should hold itself around the tinder, each piece close enough together without obstructing airflow.

Step 3: Use your fire starter to light the pile of tinder.

Step 4: Once the pile of tinder starts burning, place your firewood into the fire pit. Try and place it in a pyramid structure or resembling a tee-pee. Don’t forget to leave gaps in between the logs of wood – keep airflow and help the fire continue burning.

Step 5: Add additional kindling, especially if you notice the flame is having a hard time taking. Don’t overwhelm the fire, but do give it enough to feed on.

If you are having trouble getting the tinder and kindling going, you can try using a pre-made firestarter cube. These are easy-to-use, highly effective replacements for tinder and kindling. They are natural and environmentally friendly.

How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit - 4 Simple Methods, Tips & TricksHow to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit - 4 Simple Methods, Tips & Tricks

 

Tip: How to put out a fire in a fire pit? Use bucketfuls of sand or dirt to smother the flames. Repeat as many times as is necessary.

Keep small children and pets away from the pit even once you’ve put out the fire since it could still be dangerous.

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Method 2: How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit with Lighter Fluid

Lighter fluid is an efficient way to start a fire. However, seeing as it is incredibly flammable, it is extremely dangerous to use lighter fluid when a fire is lit. Only use it before lighting the fire.

Step 1: Lay some newspaper pages at the bottom of your fire pit.

Step 2: Build the same base as if you were lighting a fire pit the traditional way.

Step 3: Douse everything inside the fire pit with lighter fluid. Be careful not to get any outside the fire pit, or the fire could move out of it once lit.

Method 3: How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit with Charcoal

Charcoal makes it fairly easy to start a fire all on its own, though it may not give the authentic feel of burning firewood.

Step 1: Lay some newspaper pages at the bottom of your fire pit.

Step 2: Scatter some charcoal at the bottom of the fire pit, on top of the newspaper, enough to cover the bottom.

Step 3: Light with a match or lighter.

Method 4: How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit on a Windy Day

Lighting a fire on a windy day is harder and can be more dangerous. Here are a few steps you can take to succeed in lighting a fire in a fire pit on a windy day.

Step 1: Get a windscreen or wind guard. You can find one at outdoor sporting stores or online, and having one will allow you to block the wind from the area you will be lighting a fire in.

How to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit - 4 Simple Methods, Tips & TricksHow to Start a Fire in a Fire Pit - 4 Simple Methods, Tips & Tricks

Step 2: The teepee method, which is the way you should stack kindling and logs up in a pyramid or teepee shape, is a great way of combatting wind while trying to start a fire. Be extra careful with the high of your wood and kindling teepees through, as stacking too high can allow for the flames to get out of control once lit.

Step 3: Blow in the opposite direction from the wind. This is to counter the effect the wind is having on the flames.

Step 4: Be extra quick in adding more kindling and logs when needed, so that you’re not giving the fire a chance to die down. Have some logs and a bag of kindling on hand, so you just have to reach out next to you and feed the fire. Wind can accelerate the process of a fire dying down because it is providing harsher conditions for it to be able to take.

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Those were some simple methods of starting a fire in a fire pit. Read on to find answers to some frequent questions about starting fires.

What household items can you use to start a fire?

Here is a list of a few items you probably have at home that you can use to start a fire in a fire pit:

  • Crumpled Paper
  • Cotton Gauze
  • Plant-Based Cloth
  • Dryer Lint
  • Wood Shavings
  • Greasy Chips and Snacks
  • Cardboard
  • Cotton Balls

Note that the above are items that can be used to start a fire, and are not meant to be its main fuel source. Be selective when choosing what to burn – certain products and paints may have chemicals in them that will be released when burning.

What is the best thing to burn in a fire pit?

The best material to burn in a fire pit is firewood. Firewood typically has minimal processing and is close to being natural as possible. This means there should be no harmful fumes when burning firewood.

Most firewood is dried out so it will burn easier. While burn times vary between types of wood, they are in general one of the best fuel sources for fires.

Can you leave a fire pit burning overnight?

No. You should never leave a fire pit burning overnight. Outside of it being illegal in most areas to leave an open fire unmonitored, it is dangerous.

An unwatched fire can quickly spread and consume what’s around it, whether it be your yard, belongings, or even your home. No matter the convenience, it is not worth the risk. Never leave a fire unattended.

Can you start a fire in the rain?

It is possible to start a fire in the rain. You will need a waterproof tarp or some other form of cover to prevent the rain from putting out your fire. Make sure the cover is out of range of the fire itself if not fireproof.

Rain usually means everything is wet, so using a fire starter (pre-packaged materials as highly efficient tinder & kindling ) will make getting things going easier.

Many fire starter cubes will even light when wet. If you don’t have a fire starter, you can try cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly as a substitute.

You will need dry wood to burn. If you are at home you may have some stored in a shed.

If you are camping or away from home, look for dry firewood in areas that have covers, such as under thick tree foliage and bushes.

If you cannot find any dry wood, you may still be able to make use of your wet wood. Use a hatchet or another sharp tool. Remove the bark and outer layers of some of the logs. There is a good chance they are not wet all the way through.

You can even chip away at the exposed wood to create shavings and smaller pieces for starters.

Once you have a protected fire and dry wood, you can start the fire following the normal steps – Kindling First, Sticks and Smaller pieces next, then logs. If you have trouble getting the kindling going, use a firestarter.

Takeaway

That was how to start a fire in a fire pit. Though there are different ways to do so, many will tell you the traditional method of tinder, kindling, and dry logs is the most efficient way of lighting a fire. It is a method that has stood up to the test of time.

It may seem complicated but with the right tools and supplies, and a little patience, it will be easy. Remember, when dealing with fire, safety is the most important factor!

Want an easier time getting your fires going? Check out our reviews of the Solo Stove Yukon Firepit and the Solo Stove Bonfire Firepit to find a firepit that fits you.

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Solo Stove Yukon vs Bonfire – What Size Solo Stove to Get?
Solo Stove Yukon Firepit Review | The New Heavy Weight of Outdoor Firepits?
Solo Stove Bonfire Firepit Review | Is the Solo Stove Bonfire Worth It?