When you decide to light a fire close to your home, you introduce the potential for trouble. Before proceeding, it’s worth thinking through some basic safety precautions.  

The biggest is considering what might catch fire nearby. Fires pop and crackle. At some point, a log will explode and shoot out burning embers. That’s just what fires do. On windy days, sparks can travel many feet from the fire.

Many people dream about adding a fireplace to their deck, but it’s not a good idea to use a wood-burning fireplace there since cedar decking is a welcome mat of kindling for a fire. Even if you own a composite deck, embers will melt pits into the plastic. If you must put a fireplace on a deck, gas is the preferred option.

How to pick the right outdoor fireplace for you

When placing a fireplace or pit in a yard, think carefully about the landscape. Dry grass and shrubs can catch fire in a hurry. Also plan for runaway sparks that may ignite overhanging trees or land upon rooftops. 

Using a fire-resistant material to surround your fire is a must if you’re using wood. Surfaces can be metal, stone pavers, concrete, gravel, bricks or tile. A 3-foot surround is a good guide.

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A couple of accessories will help reduce the risk of sparks and embers spreading unwanted fire. Many wood-burning models come with an option for spark arrestors — mesh screens that fit over the fire. You can also get an ember mat, a fire-resistant fiberglass blanket that prevents sparks from burning surfaces or vegetation. These are also helpful beneath gas grills to protect decks from hot oil or spills. 

In Seattle, fire pits are allowed without a permit if certain requirements are met.  

• There isn’t an air-quality ban in effect.

• Fires are kept no larger than 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet high.

• Your fire is located at least 25 feet from any combustible structure. This includes fences, decks and woodpiles.

• Fire extinguishing equipment is kept nearby. This can include a charged water hose, a shovel with two buckets of water, or a fire extinguisher with a 4-A rating.

• The fire is managed and supervised by an adult until it’s completely out.

• Trash, waste, paper products, asphalt, plastic and treated wood should not be burned.