Avoid ‘Pitfalls’ While Using a Backyard Fire Pit

Relaxing in front of the back yard fire pit can be a great way to wind down after a long day, but Tom Waters, M.D., explains why it’s important to think safety first to avoid getting hurt around the open flame.

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CLEVELAND – Relaxing in front of the back yard fire pit can be a great way to wind down after a long day, but it’s important to think safety first to avoid getting hurt around the open flame.

Tom Waters, M.D., an emergency department physician at Cleveland Clinic, said many fire pit injuries happen when folks use accelerants to start the fire.

“You want to avoid using accelerants on a fire pit – certainly never use any gasoline or charcoal lighter or anything like that – that’s going to present you with a very dangerous situation,” said Dr. Waters.

Dr. Waters said the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to backyard fire pits is that they are an open flame and therefore require much caution.

Just like a pool, it’s essential to make sure that young children are supervised at all times.

Dr. Waters said it’s important for everyone to keep a safe distance from the fire, and to make sure it’s far away from the house, landscaping and trees.

If using a portable fire bowl, don’t try to move it while it’s hot or filled with any hot coals to avoid getting burned.

Dr. Waters said to be cautious of smoke too. The fire pit smoke should be released into the open air, and the fire pit should not be placed underneath any type of pavilion or overhang. If the smoke is unable to escape, it can accumulate and result in either carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation, both of which can be fatal.

It’s essential to have a fire extinguisher present at all times, but Dr. Waters reminds folks that it’s not going to help if they don’t know how to use it.

He said that everyone who owns a fire pit should read the directions on their fire extinguisher and get familiarized with it ahead of time, to avoid having to use it for first time during an emergency.

Before heading indoors for the night, make sure that fire is completely out and cool to the touch.

“You definitely want to make sure the fire has been put out completely by either covering it, burying it or pouring water on it,” said Dr. Waters. “Once you leave that fire unattended, you don’t know what could happen and some of those coals or embers can float off for significant distances and could start a fire somewhere else.”

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