How To Start a Perfect Fire in a Fire Pit

“Master the Flames: Your Essential Guide to Lighting a Fire Pit Perfectly Every Time”

The enchanting spectacle of flames flickering on a cool summer holds a unique charm, whether at a campsite or within the cosiness of your backyard.

But if you don’t know the art of kindling fire, then what seems like a simple pleasure can become a struggle.

Thankfully, starting a fire in a fire pit doesn’t have to be a Herculean task.

With the right knowledge, tools, and fuel, you can transform your fire pit into a roaring spectacle in no time. Moreover, mastering this skill can be helpful in emergencies as well.

In this article, we will focus on providing clear, step-by-step instructions that are easily applicable.

However, if you own a propane or gas fire pit, fret not. We have also provided step-by-step instructions for the same.

Safety Measures to Consider Before Starting a Fire in Firepit

Before igniting your fire pit, it is crucial to adhere to several safety measures to prevent accidents and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. We have mentioned them below for your reference.

1. Location: The fire pit has to be minimum 10 feet far from any flammable materials or structures, including trees and overhead branches. If possible, choose a location sheltered from the wind.

2. Fire Pit Safety: Ensure your fire pit is stable before starting the fire. You have to place it on a flat surface (non-flammable) like stone, brick, or concrete. Never place it on wooden decks or grass.

3. Check for Local Fire Restrictions: Always check your local fire restrictions or burn bans before starting a fire. Some areas might restrict outdoor fires, particularly during drier months.

4. Fire Extinguishing Resources: Have a bucket of water, sand, or a fire extinguisher nearby before you start the fire. This way, you can quickly put out the fire if it gets out of hand.

5. Protection: Use a spark screen or fire pit cover to contain any stray sparks or embers that could cause a fire elsewhere. Using heat-resistant gloves or tools can also protect you when adjusting logs or stoking a fire.

6. Wind Conditions: Lighting a fire in high wind conditions is unsafe. Winds can blow embers and cause the fire to spread.

Things to Keep Handy to Start Fire in a Firepit

  • Firewood – dry, seasoned hardwoods like hickory, oak, and ash.
  • Smaller wood stick (1-2 diameters) for kindling.
  • Tinder (small ignitable materials like dry grass, leaves, newspaper, or pine needles).
  • Matches or Lighter
  • Fire poker or tongs
  • Heat-resistant gloves
  • Firepit screen to prevent sparks and embers from flying out
  • Water source or fire extinguisher to put out the fire in an emergency

How to Start a Fire in Firepit?

Starting a fire in a fire pit is a straightforward process if you follow the correct steps. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:

1. Prepare the Fire Pit

Before you start, clean your fire pit, and remove any residual ashes or debris. Check for proper drainage if your fire pit has a drain. Set it up away from structures or flammable materials, ideally at least 10 feet away. It’s also good practice to have a water source or fire extinguisher nearby, in case of emergencies.

2. Collect Your Materials

You’ll need tinder, kindling, and firewood to start and sustain your fire.

a. Tinder: This is what you’ll use to start your fire. Tinder includes small, easily combustible materials like dry leaves, grass, or pine needles. You can also use newspaper or commercial fire starters. The key is that tinder should catch fire quickly.

b. Kindling: kindling helps amplify the fire to a size capable of burning logs. Kindling includes small sticks or chunks of wood, typically about 1-2 inches in diameter.

c. Firewood: The main fuel for your fire, firewood is what will burn for an extended period. For the best results, use dry, seasoned hardwoods like oak, hickory, or ash.

3. Arrange Your Materials in the Fire Pit

a. Tinder: Start by putting a handful of tinder in the center of the fire pit. 

b. Kindling: Arrange the kindling in a teepee or pyramid shape over the tinder. This shape is ideal because it allows air to circulate and feeds the fire with oxygen.

c. Firewood: Now, place a few logs of firewood over your kindling structure, keeping the same teepee shape. Make sure you leave some spaces for air to flow.

d. Light Your Fire: Using long matches or a long-nosed lighter, ignite the tinder from several sides to ensure an even burn. The tinder will ignite the kindling, which will then ignite the logs.

Refer to the image mentioned below.

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4. Tend Your Fire

As the fire starts to catch, you can gradually add larger logs, but be careful not to smother the flames. Always place the logs in a way that allows air to circulate. Keep adding logs as necessary to keep the fire at your desired size.

Maintaining a fire requires both air and heat, so it is vital to ensure there is sufficient airflow reaching the base of the fire. Many professionally designed fire pits incorporate small ventilation holes at the bottom to facilitate this airflow. If your fire pit doesn’t have this feature, you may need to manually stimulate the flames by blowing on them or fanning them each time you introduce additional wood to the fire.

5. Put Out the Fire

When you’re finished with the fire, it’s important to extinguish it correctly. Start by spreading out the embers in a thin layer using a fire poker—this will allow them to cool. Then slowly pour water over the embers and stir them to ensure all the hot embers get wet. Continue this process until there are no hissing sounds or steam.

6. Double Check

Before leaving the fire pit, double-check to make sure the fire is completely out. Touch the wet ashes with the back of your hand to ensure there’s no heat remaining.

Remember, safety is always the priority. Never leave a fire unattended, and always ensure that children and pets are kept at a safe distance.

How to Start a Fire in Propane or Gas Firepit?

Starting a fire in a propane or gas fire pit requires a different approach compared to a traditional wood fire. Here’s a detailed, step-by-step guide:

1. Verify the Propane/Gas Supply

Before initiating the process, ensure that your propane or gas tank is adequately filled. If you’re using a propane tank, inspect it for any signs of damage or leaks.

2. Inspect the Fire Pit

Check the burner ports of your fire pit to ensure they are clean and devoid of any obstructions. Verify that all components, including the fire pit itself, ignition system, and gas connections, are in good, functioning condition. If you encounter any issues, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance before proceeding further.

3. Disconnect the Gas Supply

Prior to lighting the fire pit, ensure that the gas supply is disconnected.

4. Uncover the Fire Pit

If your fire pit comes with a protective cover, remember to remove it before starting your fire.

5. Set the Control Knob to “Light” or “Ignite”

Typically, propane or gas fire pits come with a control knob that includes settings like “Off,” “Light” or “Ignite,” and “Low” to “High.” Rotate this knob to the “Light” or “Ignite” position.

6. Light the Fire Pit

Most fire pits come equipped with an ignition button or switch for convenience. Push this button to ignite the fire. If your fire pit lacks an ignition button, you might need to use a long match or a long-nosed lighter. Insert your match or lighter near the burner, then gradually open the gas valve.7.

Control the Flame: Once your fire pit is lit, you can adjust the flame’s intensity by manoeuvring the control knob. For safety, start at a lower setting and gradually increase the flame to your preferred level.

7. Monitor Your Fire Pit

Never leave your burning fire pit unattended. Always keep a watchful eye on it, ensuring that children and pets maintain a safe distance.

8. Extinguish the Fire Pit

When you’re done, switch the control knob to the “Off” position and cut off the gas supply. Allow the fire pit to cool down before replacing the protective cover.

Remember, propane and gas fire pits should be handled with the same safety considerations as wood fire pits. Always have a fire extinguisher or water source nearby, and follow all manufacturer’s instructions and safety guidelines.

Troubleshooting Common Fire-Starting Problems

Fire-starting problems usually boil down to a few common issues. We have discussed them below along with the appropriate solutions to tackle them.

1. Fire Doesn’t Start

This could be due to damp or green wood, lack of oxygen, or inadequate tinder or kindling. To resolve this, ensure your wood is dry and seasoned, and that you are using enough dry tinder and kindling. Arrange your tinder, kindling, and logs in a way that allows air to circulate. Many people find that a teepee or log cabin structure works well.

2. Fire Dies Quickly

This may happen if the wood is too spaced out, or if there is a lack of kindling or oxygen. Make sure to stack the firewood properly. Your logs should be close enough to feed off each other’s heat but not so close that they smother each other and restrict airflow. Remember to add more kindling and logs as the fire burns, and check that your fire setup is not restricting airflow.

3. Fire Smokes Excessively

This usually indicates that the wood is damp, green, or not properly seasoned. Using dry, seasoned wood will significantly reduce the amount of smoke your fire produces. If your wood is wet, try to dry it out. If it’s green, you may need to set it aside and let it season before you can use it.


Starting a fire in a fire pit, whether it is for an outdoor gathering, a cozy night under the stars, or a camping trip, can be a satisfying and practical skill to master.

From understanding the importance of using dry, seasoned wood to arranging your fire for optimal airflow, these steps guide you through creating the perfect fire.

Always remember to handle fire responsibly. Keep safety measures top of mind, always supervise your fire, and ensure it is thoroughly extinguished before leaving it unattended. With practice, you will find that starting and maintaining a fire in your fire pit becomes second nature.

If you still have any doubts, feel free to write them in the comment section below. 

Fire Pit – FAQs

1. What type of wood is best for a fire pit?

Ans: Hardwoods like oak, ash, or hickory are great for fire pits because they burn hotter and longer. Avoid using resinous woods like pine or cedar, as they tend to pop and throw sparks. Regardless of the type, ensure your wood is dry and properly seasoned for at least six months.

2. How much kindling and tinder do I need to start a fire?

Ans: Generally, starting a fire requires a generous handful of tinder and a few pieces of kindling. Tinder, which catches fire quickly, helps ignite the kindling. Once the kindling is well-lit, you can start adding your larger logs. The exact amount varies depending on the size of your fire pit and the conditions so it may take some trial and error.

3. Can you use a fire pit on grass or a wooden deck?

Ans: Using a fire pit directly on grass or a wooden deck can be a hazard. The heat from the fire pit can scorch or burn the surface. If you must use a fire pit in these locations, consider using a heat-resistant fire pit mat, a fire pit pad, or at least a layer of bricks or pavers to protect the surface.

4. Why won’t my fire light even though I’m using dry wood?

Ans: It can be due to a lack of oxygen, not enough tinder or kindling, or the arrangement of your fire. Ensure your fire setup allows for good airflow and that you’re using enough tinder and kindling. Also, arrange your logs in a teepee or log cabin structure to allow the fire to catch more easily.

5. Is it necessary to clean out my fire pit after each use?

Ans: While you don’t have to clean out your fire pit after every single use, it is recommended to remove ash and unburned debris periodically. Excessive ash accumulation can hamper airflow, making starting or maintaining a fire harder. Removing ash and debris keeps the fire pit neat and ready for your next fire.

6. Can I use a fire pit in windy conditions?

Ans: Using a fire pit in windy conditions can be hazardous. The wind can cause the fire to spread and embers to fly out, potentially causing a fire hazard. If you must use a fire pit in windy conditions, have a wind guard or screen to prevent embers from flying out. Ensuring the fire is completely extinguished before leaving it unattended is crucial.

7. Why does my fire produce so much smoke?

Ans: Excessive smoke indicates the wood is damp, green, or poorly seasoned. It could also mean the fire lacks oxygen, causing incomplete combustion. Use dry, seasoned wood and arrange your fire for good airflow.

8. Can I leave my fire pit uncovered in the rain or snow?

Ans: Leaving your fire pit uncovered in rain or snow can lead to rusting or damage, especially if made of metal. Additionally, it can result in a water buildup, making it harder to start a fire the next time. It’s recommended to use a cover to protect your fire pit when not in use.

9. How to ignite a fire pit using a fire starter?

Ans: A fire starter can simplify the task of igniting your tinder and kindling, serving as a substitute for traditional matches or lighters. The process remains largely unchanged, replacing the initial ignition source with the fire starter.

10. How to ignite a fire pit using charcoal?

Ans: Charcoal is a fantastic choice when you’re aiming for steady, long-lasting heat in your fire pit. However, it does take some time to warm up. Consider using lighter fluid or hardwood kindling to expedite the process. Once you see the charcoal beginning to glow, add your firewood to sustain the fire’s life.

11. How to have a smokeless fire pit experience?

Ans: Certain fire pits are designed to minimize smoke by igniting it at the pit’s surface. You’ll need one of these specialized fire pits to have a smokeless fire. Completely avoiding smoke while burning wood is almost impossible without such a pit. However, using a gas fire pit eliminates the issue of smoke.

12. How to ignite a fire pit using lighter fluid?

Ans: Lighter fluid can be quite effective for starting a fire. Begin by generously spraying the fluid onto your wood; you may need to use more than you initially expected as the fluid evaporates swiftly. Make sure to light the fluid-soaked wood promptly before the fluid has a chance to evaporate completely, or you’ll find yourself back at square one.

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