Is there an ‘ideal’ way to light a fire pit? The truth is that there are hundreds of ways of starting a fire in a fire pit. Some methods are easier, faster, and better than others, but in the end, lighting a fire pit is not really rocket science.

A fire pit can quickly turn any dull or dreary backyard into an inviting, fun, and lively environment for creating great memories. 

But only if the roars of the flames from a fire pit make the evening cozy and aesthetically pleasing.

Fire pits are excellent additions to backyards and are available in numerous styles and types. 

This includes natural gas, wood-burning, and propane fire pits. Each fire pit in these categories requires specific methods if you want to light them up. 

This is why it is crucial to understand how to light a fire pit. You also need to learn how to ensure you and those around you are safe from harm while lighting your fire pit.

Therefore, follow these steps below to learn how to light a fire pit.

Steps On How To Light A Fire Pit

  1. Prepare the Area Around the Fire Pit for Safety Purposes

Before starting a fire in your fire pit, check with the local authorities and consider fire pit regulations. 

You need to ensure the area is safe for everyone and the surroundings. Your #1 concern when lighting a fire pit is the prevention of fires and injury.

  1. Gather Materials for Lighting the Fire Pit

Start the fire-building process by getting the necessary resources. This include:

  • Tinder: This can include newspaper, dry grass, straw, tree bark, and leaves. These items must be very dry so that they can catch fire easily.
  • Fire Starters: Matches and lighters are the most common types of fire starters. But one of the best fire starters is a butane torch lighter as it helps get the flames going within a short time. You may also consider using arc lighters since they are eco-friendly and rechargeable. 
  • Firewood: Kiln-dried or seasoned firewood forms the basis of your fire. Do not gather or use wet or greenwood. You are at liberty to decide the type of firewood you intend to use. Some firewood burns longer and hotter than others, such as oak. The firewood size should be based primarily on the size of the fire pit. But in most cases, it shouldn't be more than 16 inches.
  • Kindling: This is the material that catches fire right from the tinder. Kindling generally consists of small, dry sticks with a one-inch circumference. The overall length of kindling is between 5 to 8 inches. Kindling must be that thin in order to catch fire easily.

The materials you gather should also be based on the overall size of your fire pit and how long you want the flames to kindle. 

  1. Lighting Your Fire Pit

As soon as you have collected these materials, start constructing the layout in order to light your fire pit. Although different techniques for lighting a fire pit exist, they mostly follow similar principles. This method is used to light a wood-burning fire pit.

Step One - Mound up the tinder until it is roughly the size of a fist. Place the tinder right in the center of the fire pit. The goal is to light the fire pit from the bottom and allow the tinder to burn until the kindling catches fire.

Step Two – The next step is to position the firewood. The three most popular fire lays are:

  1. The Log Cabin (Criss Cross)
  2. Teepee 
  3. Lean-to

Use any of these firewood positionings as you see fit. The positioning of the firewood dictates the location of the kindling and firewood.

Here’s how to light your fire pit using any of the positioning mentioned earlier:

  • Log Cabin (Criss Cross) Fire: Start by placing 2 pieces of firewood parallel to each other with the Teepee placed directly in the center of the fire pit. Lay 2 pieces of kindling at right angles to the other pieces until you form a square. Follow this process until you have 3 perfect layers.
  • Teepee Fire: Place the kindling in teepee formation with your tinder directly beneath the point of the Teepee. Ensure you leave a small opening in the kindling teepee: this is where you light up the tinder while allowing oxygen to fuel the fire naturally. The kindling adds the wood to the rising flames as the fire starts burning.
  • Lean-to Fire: This is the best option if there is a light breeze or wind. Place one piece of wood in the fire pit and run it perpendicular to the direction where the breeze is coming from. Next, place your tinder against the firewood, right in the fire pit center.

Place the kindling at an angle so that it touches the firewood as well as the fire pit. Ensure the tinder is directly beneath the wood.

Step Three - Light up the tinder after constructing your layout. You have to reach in carefully so that you don’t dislodge the arrangement you made. 

There should be no loose hair or clothing in the way as you light your fire pit.

Step Four - As the tinder begins to light and the kindle catches, you may find it necessary to adjust your wood placement. You will need a poker which helps the kindle get more exposure to the wood. 

You should only adjust the firewood if it poses the safety risk of falling right out of the fire pit or sitting somewhat too close to the edge of your fire feature.

Step Five - As the fire starts burning the kindle, add some firewood, but in incremental amounts. This helps ensure that you don’t choke the fire from getting the necessary oxygen it needs to bloom. 

You will need to add more firewood when you eventually have a bed of red-hot embers. Make sure you don’t prematurely put out the fire by adding more firewood before having the hotbed of embers.

Step Six - If you own a fire pit cover, you should put it on in order to maintain the fire while keeping others in the backyard safe from harm. Ensure the fire pit cover is on unless you need to add more firewood or make a few more adjustments.

This process of lighting up a fire pit is relatively similar every time you need to get a fire going in your fire feature. You may try another lighting method or two until you find the one that works best for you and your fire pit.

How to Light Other Fire Pit Options

Fire pits can also be powered by natural gas or propane. Lighting these types of fire pits is different from how you light a wood-burning fire pit. 

However, lighting a propane- or natural gas-powered fire pit has a much greater level of convenience.

For instance, most propane fire pits can be lighted at the push of a simple button. However, this type of fire pit may not provide as much heat as its wood-burning counterpart. Moreover, refilling the propane bottles is far more expensive than its natural gas counterpart.

Natural gas fire pits are generally fed by a gas line, unlike propane fire pits. This is why a professional must install a natural gas fire pit. This, of course, limits the precise locations where you can position the fire pit in your backyard. 

This is why it is crucial to designate an area in your backyard where you can lay the gas line. This will save you lots of money and time as you may not always need to refill the tank.

How to Control Fire Pit Smoke

Gathering around a fire pit roasting s’mores and soaking up its ambiance at the end of a hard day’s work is the desire of many folks. However, too much smoke from the fire pit can spoil the fun and even kill off the need to create beautiful memories.

When your fire pit billows too much smoke, it pollutes the air and affects the kids, animals, and pets in a household area. Smoke can also trigger respiratory issues in individuals that are allergic or sensitive to it.

Too much smoke from fire pits is also known to cause some physical discomfort such as burning eyes, runny nose, cough, etc. This is why it is vital to control the amount of smoke your fire pit emits.

It is practically impossible to do away with smoke from your fire pit completely. However, you can take some steps to control or reduce the amount of smoke from your fire pit.

  • Use Only Kiln-Dried or Seasoned Firewood in Your Fire Pit

Seasoned or kiln-dried firewood has less than 20 percent moisture content. It must have been cut and left on its own for up to a year. 

Burning green wood or unseasoned wood will produce a lot of smoke that easily pollutes the environment. Therefore, ensure you always and only use seasoned or kiln-dried firewood for your fire pit.

  • Do Not Burn Rubbish or Debris

Although this seems relatively straightforward, many people unconsciously burn rubbish or debris such as twigs, leaves, paper, cardboard, garden wastes, etc.

Burning rubbish or debris produces nasty smells while preventing unrestricted airflow, which, in turn, affects combustion, thereby producing even more smoke that envelops everywhere.

  • Keep the Fire Pit as Clean as a Whistle

You need to ensure your fire pit is very clean as it is a crucial point that prevents the fire feature from producing too much smoke.

Any residue you allow to stick to your fire pit can cause dirty flames, giving off lots of smoke. Such residues can even make it much more difficult for you to start a fire.

Therefore, use a wire brush to clean out your fire pit from time to time or immediately after use the next day.

  • Use the Right Type of Firewood

One of the most efficient ways to control fire pit smoke is using the correct firewood type. Choose hardwoods over softwoods any day since hardwoods are generally denser. This makes them burn for extended periods as well as reach higher temperatures

Some of the typical hardwoods used in fire pits include:

  • Maple
  • Hickory
  • Beech
  • Oak
  • Birch
  • Ash

Softwoods can also be burned, but experts do not recommend them. Softwoods comprise evergreen trees like redwood, spruce, pine, etc. They have a lot more sap than hardwoods. Saps are the organic compounds that cause softwood to produce lots of smoke. 

Moreover, softwoods are less dense and have lots of space in-between the fibers in the wood. This guarantees excellent airflow and a faster period of combustion. But they burn only for a short period, making them a 'No-No' for use in a fire pit.

  • Allow the Fire to ‘Breathe’

The more oxygen the flames in your fire pit have, the less smoke the latter will produce. Oxygen promotes a more efficient and faster combustion process. Greater combustion generates less smoke. Therefore, leave the lid off the fire pit while it is burning.

  • Don’t Use a Damaged Fire Pit

Using a damaged fire pit is a huge mistake as it may not burn wood properly, resulting in excess smoke. If some parts of your fire pit are broken or chipped off, the fire pit will be incapable of holding firewood properly.

If the venting system is also severely damaged, the fire will result in an incomplete burn, causing smoke.


So that is how to light a fire pit. It may take you some time to master these steps. However, with enough practice and time, you will get the hang of it and inch closer every day to getting a roaring flame going any time you need it.

Bear in mind that safety is the #1 factor to consider when lighting a fire pit. Moreover, there are several ways to light a fire pit. 

You are free to try out any method that comes to mind or experiment each time you light a fire pit. You may eventually find a great method that works excellently well for you.

Follow the tips that enable you to control fire pit smoke. This includes using dry, seasoned, or kiln-dried wood, allowing plenty of oxygen, etc.

Now that you know exactly how to light a fire pit, head out there to your backyard, get your fire pit going, and create one of the coziest memories ever this evening with friends and family!

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