How To Start A Fire In A Fire Pit: Building And Lighting A Backyard Wood Fire Pit

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What is the best way to start a fire in a fire pit?

Let’s be honest – there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to get a fire pit burning. Some are definitely better, easier, and faster than others, but at the end of the day, it’s not rocket science.

The most important thing when it comes to starting a fire in a fire pit is to use dry wood. As long as you’ve got that you’ll be fine.

With that in mind, here’s one of the ways I build a fire in our fire pit.

How To Start Fire Pit

best way to start a fire in a fire pit

I just bought this new cast iron fire pit and took a few photos of how I started the first fire in it – it’s the Harbour Housewares Cast Iron Fire Pit.

Excuse the lawn – we have a German Shepherd/Lab who has effectively destroyed it (and we’re just coming out of winter, during which time it turns to a mess).

Also, unlike me, you should put something under a firepit when it’s on grass, otherwise, the grass will be scorched and die.

Here’s what I use to start a fire in a fire pit:

  • Some dry wood matter, leaves, bark, etc. to create a bed
  • Dry kindling
  • Firelighters
  • And a lighter/matches, of course

Before lighting a backyard fire pit, keep these things in mind:

  1. Make sure it’s a safe distance from houses, other structures, and trees
  2. Have a hose on stand-by in order to quickly extinguish it if necessary
  3. Ensure children know not to go near the fire pit
  4. Keep an eye on inquisitive pets
  5. Make sure your local area is not under any fire restrictions
  6. Reconsider starting a fire if it is windy

Obviously, always use common sense when lighting fires in a fire pit, chiminea, or campfire situation. Things can quickly go wrong, but with proper preparation and supervision, you can mitigate most of the risks.

There’s nothing like having an outdoor fire going so it’s always worth pursuing, in my opinion – just don’t do anything stupid and you’ll be right. Firepit screens should also be considered as a way to prevent sparks and ash from leaving the fire pit.

We’ve got a bit more introductory info on fire pits here, for those who are still looking for the perfect model.

1. Create A Bed For The Fire

starting a fire in a fire pit

Before lighting the fire pit, make sure it is clean a dry.

It’s all good if there are the remnants from previous fires, just as long as it’s not wet or waterlogged.

The rubbishy bits of wood you see in my picture is good for creating an initial base for the fire – it’s not 100% necessary but it makes getting things started a bit easier in my experience.

You can use more or less than I have – it is less important if you already have a base already formed from previous fires (though in that case, you might not be asking how to start a fire in a fire pit?).

  1. Lay the dry wood matter in the middle of the fire pit
  2. Add some firelighters/firestarters among it
  3. Light it

2. Fire Pit Lighting

start fire in fire pit

Some people build up a pyramid or stack of kindling before they light the fire, which is what I tend to do when lighting our wood-burning stove or how you might light a Cubic Mini Wood Stove, but for the fire pit, I like to do it this way.

I light the firelighters and then build up the kindling around the outside next.

3. Add The Kindling

how to burn wood in a fire pit

Add the kindling in a pyramid formation around the outside of the now alight fire pit – building a fire in a fire pit in this way allows oxygen to feed the fire and burn better.

If the wood is dry, the kindling will catch immediately and start to take off.

For those who are completely fresh let me say that kindling is wood that has been split into very small pieces – while it’s probably best to start a fire with a softwood like pine, it’s not wrong to use a hardwood like gum either.

The wood in the image above is a mixture of very dry pine, gum, and macrocarpa – this picture was taken about 30 seconds to a minute after adding the wood to the fire pit.

4. Add Larger Wood

how to.build a fire pit

Keep adding larger chunks of kindling to fire as the kindling starts to burn.

As the kindling burns down it will create a good bed of embers that you can keep adding wood on top of, and then, as you get a better base, you can start adding regular firewood onto the fire.

Once the bed of the firepit is sorted, you can just continue to add more wood to the fire every 15 – 30 minutes and it will continue to burn until you stop.

5. Get Out The Marshmallows

how to build a fire in a fire pit

Lastly, get out the marshmallows!

We cut some bamboo stakes from a stand on our property – they worked really well as a marshmallow cooking device.

If you’re doing this with younger kids, I recommend a one adult per child ratio for supervision. A couple of years ago I was supervising 3 young kids roasting marshmallows around the fire pit. I couldn’t keep an eye on them all effectively and one of them ended up getting a stinking hot marshmallow stuck to her cheek.

Never again will I risk that!

How To Light A Fire Pit

best way to start a fire pit

So that is how to easily start a fire pit – in my humble opinion, it might even be the best way to start a fire in a fire pit!

Haha.

But in all seriousness, there’s plenty of good ways to do it, you need to try out a few methods and see what works best for you. And, in all likelihood, next time I’m starting the fire pit, I’ll probably use a different variation of this formula depending on what’s on hand at the moment.

Just remember to use dry wood, let the fire get plenty of oxygen, and use a firelighter to make things quicker and easier. And, if you want to know how to put out a fire pit, you basically just do the reverse of that.

I forgot to take any more photos of building a fire pit fire after the one above because I was so focused on just enjoying it, but I started adding major pieces of wood after this and it continued to burn very well into the night.

One tip for the best wood to use in a fire pit: use the wood that doesn’t fit in your wood stove!

I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone, but I’m always left with a number of odd pieces of wood that weren’t split well because they were knotty or whatever, and they won’t fit in the fireplace.

Sometimes I trim them down with my chainsaw (as it can’t be done with the ax), but as we’re coming into fire pit season, I’ll just be saving those awkward pieces in the fire pit.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

It doesn’t matter whether you have a copper fire pit, a Blue Rooster Chiminea, or a cast-iron model like mine. You can light a fire pit using this method and she’ll be burning in no time.

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