Pits Against Nature
Fire pits allow entertaining outdoors no matter the weather.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Paulette Phlipot
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A ring, some stones, kindling and flame and you have an outdoor entertainment center.
Portable fire pits should be put on non-combustible bases, such as granite, fire brick or ceramic tiles. Metal can get extremely hot, radiating heat at the bottom. This can scorch the grass and burn wood, making them unsuitable for wooden decks.
The heat from fire pits has also been known to cause porous brick, concrete blocks, slate and sandstone to explode and sealed patios to bubble. It also can cause bricks to change color.
Avoid rubber pads, says Pittman, even though marketers say they can withstand heat up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I tested one and it made a real mess, melting into the concrete and leaving rubbery, black burn marks,” she says.
Screens offer a measure of safety, as do spark guards, which prevent sparks from jumping out. Local fire department guidelines require homeowners to situate them anywhere from 10 to 25 feet away from their homes and to locate them safely away from trees, bushes and fences.
Fire pits should never be left unattended, either, and there should be a fire extinguisher nearby or a hose stretched out to the fire pit.
“We get pretty good south-prevailing winds at night so you wouldn’t want a fire in a fire pit to flare up after you’ve gone to bed,” says Ketchum Fire Department Captain Tom Acona. “And a bucket of water is not enough.”
There are a variety of fire pit covers, including waterproof canvas covers. Perhaps the most versatile are wooden tops made of redwood, teak and other woods that can double as table tops should someone want to set their drink on it while lounging in a lawn chair. Some have wheels, which make them especially portable. >>>