Garden Fire Safety Tips

Summer’s here and the time is right for, well, setting fire to stuff outside. This is a noble and honourable British pursuit that was practised long before our supermarkets started to sell bargain packs of bangers alongside the disposable barbecues. Although it is still one that is likely to bring danger to the garden.

We may not have to shoo the wolves away from our fire nowadays, but we do have to do battle with the bonfire, the barbecue and the chiminea as we seek to turn the outdoors into an extension of our living space. Each offers up its own dangers, both to ourselves and our property and that is even before we consider the risks of an under-cooked chicken wing. So, do be careful and stay safe by practising good garden fire safety as you seek to dine al fresco and extend the summer nights with a little extra heat.

garden bonfire safety

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Garden fire safety tips

Many larger gardens will now have a built-in barbecue area and this is definitely something to consider if you have the space. It defines an area of hardstanding and keeps naked flames away from areas that are likely to catch fire. It can also give you built in storage space for charcoal or other fuels. These are not expensive to construct and can be done in a half-day in most cases.
Those who do not have the space for a built-in barbecue will usually carry or roll the gas or coal barbecue out of the shed or the garage as soon as the sun is out. This is better placed on the patio or a paved area rather than on the decking or the grass, not least because heat and dropped coals and a portable barbecue’s metal legs can ruin wood or grass.

barbecue safety

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Do always take extra care with your fuel and keep a bucket of water or sand nearby, just in case. When lighting a charcoal barbecue you should only use firelighters or accelerants that are recommended for that use. Do not be tempted to add some petrol or lighter fuel if you are getting frustrated at how slowly the fire is burning. Never be tempted to take your barbecue inside if the weather is wet, as the resulting carbon monoxide from burning fuel can be very dangerous.

More of us are getting outdoor heating devices such as a chiminea now, which allows us to stay warm outside at the end of a long, sunny day. The safety rules for using these clay outdoor fireplaces are much the same as those that you should follow when using your barbecue, including the fact that you should not add accelerants to the fire. You should also not leave your chiminea unattended or in the care of children.

chiminea safety

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Bonfires may be something that we naturally associate with the autumn and Guy Fawkes Night, but plenty of us like to burn off garden waste or waste wood in the summer to end off a night outside and provide light and heat as we enjoy that last glass of wine. The trick here is to build the fire safely, ensuring that all wood will fall inwards as it burns. Newspaper, small twigs and smaller sticks will form a good base that will burn easily, you can build a larger tripod of logs around this to get the fire going well. This keeps the fire fuelled and keeps you away from burning wood and embers. It will also protect your garden.

Make sure that you build the fire in a safe area, away from fences and your house. It is also best to build the fire on the earth if possible, although not if you have peat soil. Make sure that there is a good clearance of both plants and grass around the fire so that these cannot catch light.

garden fire

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Always have someone to supervise the fire and do not let children stray too near. Open fires can send out embers and it can be easy for a child to get injured if they are allowed to play near to a fire.

No matter which type of fire you are having, keep water, sand and a fire extinguisher to hand. You won’t have to go to much effort or spend a great deal but it can make all the difference in an emergency. If you feel your fire is getting out of control, then do not be afraid to call the fire brigade on 999. It is better to be a little embarrassed than to endanger your home or your family.

Stay safe and enjoy the rest of the summer.

If you need help getting your garden ready to entertain friends and family this summer, post your job in our Gardener category. Up to three tradesmen can contact you to quote and you’ll be able to view their profile pages, complete with customer ratings, to help you decide who to hire.

Iain Aitch

Iain is a London-based writer who works as a journalist for a number of newspapers and magazines. He has also written two books, one of which is a hilarious lexicon about Britishness – Iain is a Brit through and through!

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