Outdoor fireplace safety for Seattle area homeowners

An outdoor fireplace installed in the Seattle area can be wonderful addition to the home and garden, but pay attention to these safety tips.

Outdoor fireplaces or firepots can be a welcome addition to most anyhome in the Seattle area. They take up very little space and offer many hours of enjoyment throughout much of the year. In fact, they are an excellent way to extend your outdoor season - which always seems to be too short in the great northwest. If you have installed an outdoor fireplace on your patio or deck, or are thinking about installing one, here are some safety precautions that you should consider.

  • Burn a small amount of wood at a time. If you have chosen to install a wood-burning fireplace on your patio or deck, don’t pile so much wood in the fireplace that the fire will outlast the amount of time you want to spend outdoors. An outdoor fireplace should never be left unattended.
  • Install a fire screen and guard against sparks. There is a large assortment of fire screens to choose, from basic to ornate. These add style to your outdoor fireplace and act as an important safety measure. Make sure the screen or fireplace enclosure is closed whenever there is an open flame. Also be sure that if you build an outdoor fireplace like the one pictured below, your builder include a spark arresting fire screen on the top of the chimney.
  • Check for wind. Unless you have an effective wind block protecting your outdoor fireplace, you need to be aware of wind and the possibility of sudden wind gusts. Wind can cause sparks to fly or uncontrollable flames.
  • Pay attention to burn bans! In the Seattle area, we often experience burn bans when there is an inversion layer in the atmosphere. This warning and information is available from the local weather service or King County. It is imperative that no burning take place during this time as there are serious fines. Before starting a fire in your outdoor fireplace, check for a possible burn ban at www.pscleanair.org.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher, and bucket of sand, or a charged garden hose within reach of your outdoor fireplace. Make sure the fire extinguisher has been approved by the fire department. A bucket of sand and shovel is a good idea and beneficial when needing to put out a fire before returning indoors. (Note: gas fireplaces should have a safety shutoff valve. Know where it is and how to use it. )
  • Remove overhanging branches. Install your fireplace well away from overhanging or nearby branches or bushes that could catch fire.
  • Use a fireproof pad. If you are using a fire pot and don't have a concrete or stone base and want a fireplace build on or next to a wood deck, we suggest purchasing a fireproof pad for your unit to sit on. The pad will protect your deck from scorch marks. It is also a good idea to place a fireproof pad in front of an outdoor fireplace, just as a precaution.

Here is one more note about fireplaces vs. fire pits & firepots:

Fire pots are open vessels. As a result, the smoke they emit is carried easily in all directions by a slight breeze. These structures are not as pleasant to have positioned on a deck or near the entrance to your home. It is better to install a fire pit or firepot away from your home. While a fireplace chimney will carry smoke upwards and away from you and your guests, a fire pit or firepot may leave you with that telltale smoke scent on your clothes after burning.


Category: Landscape Construction

Environmental Construction, Inc.

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