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Fire up the fire pit

Get the coziness of a fireplace in your own back yard

Some of the best fall evenings are the simplest ones: time spent with family and friends, sharing good food and conversation under the stars. On a lovely night, a backyard fire pit can provide just the right gathering spot—a little atmosphere, and a touch of warmth when the summer heat succumbs to autumn crisp.

Start by considering whether you want the fire pit to be a larger, more permanent part of your landscape design, or lighter and portable.  Also check with local authorities—including any homeowners association—to see if there are any rules or city ordinances governing the type of outdoor burning that’s permitted.

Another question is what kind of fuel to use. A number of options are available for gas-fired pits, including using a small external propane tank, or burying a natural gas line to provide a steady stream of fuel (for safety reasons, this is best done by a professional). Fire pits that burn wood are also an option, particularly for those who prefer that authentic campfire smell (and the smoke that comes with it), or want the fun of roasting marshmallows or hot dogs. Many come with screens to help keep sparks from flying, and lids to protect the bowl from the elements when the pit is not in use.

Choices range from straightforward to dual purpose
Fire pits can be simple kettle bowls all the way up to more elaborate and elegant models surrounded by seating, so you’ll need to consider style when choosing yours. Some propane fire pit tables are designed to double as a coffee table when the fire isn’t lit, with compartments that conceal the tank and lids.

Decorative chimneys sit taller, with a smokestack, generally permitting a smaller fire. In some models, the flame is visible from only one direction.

Remember, it’s still a fire
When selecting and using a fire pit, always keep safety in mind. Look for a model with a weighted base, so it won’t tip or blow over.

Make sure the fire pit is well away from any combustible structure or the neighbor’s yard (at least 10 feet away; 25 feet is preferable). Don’t place a portable fire pit on grass or a wood deck—instead, use a natural surface such as concrete, stone, gravel, or brick, or a fire-retardant pad. And remember that embers can fly: make sure there are no low-hanging branches overhead.

Before lighting a fire pit, place a container of water, a garden hose, and a shovel close at hand. Then gather round the fire, and let the conversation fly.


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