News, Press & Publications

Backyard Fire Pit and Bonfire Safety

Press, Articles & Publications

Backyard Fire Pit and Bonfire Safety

With cooler fall nights ahead, a fire pit or bonfire is the perfect spot to gather, roast marshmallows, and enjoy some great conversation. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), injuries related to outdoor patio hearths and fire pits have spiked in recent years. Fire protection expert, retired firefighter and Fire Marshal, and Telgian Fire Safety Vice President Tom Parrish recently spoke to FOX 2 News Detroit about best safety practices when using fire pits or hosting bonfires.

Parrish has more than 25 years of experience in fire protection and emergency response and serves on several National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) technical committees. In addition, he is the Vice President of the Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA) and is a senior instructor for NFPA. His professional credentials include Level IV NICET Certified Fire Alarm Technician, Level III NICET Inspections and Testing, and Certified Fire Protection Specialist.

Parrish recently appeared on FOX 2 Detroit to share his top fire pit and bonfire safety tips. (Click video link below.)

Fire Pit and Bonfire Safety on FOX 2 Detroit

Before installing: Check with local regulations. Not all locations allow fire features.

Before installing a fire pit or outdoor fireplace on your property, check with your local fire department about any pertinent rules and regulations. Some communities, such as New York City, do not allow open fires. In addition, communities with homeowners’ associations frequently have their own rules about outdoor fires.

It’s also important to pay special attention to burning hours. Some areas permit burning hours during daylight hours while others only permit burning at night. And, it’s important to alert the fire department when a burning is taking place, in case they receive calls reporting smoke or flames.

Fire pit placement: How far from your home, trees and other items should the fire pit be placed?

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), “Fires shall be located not less than 50 ft. (15 m) from any structure. In the event that brands, and embers are given off, or that the fire becomes out of control, the 50 ft. (15 m) requirement provides some distance between the fire and the structures. Depending on conditions, the AHJ [authorities having jurisdiction] can increase this distance to provide adequate protection.”

Getting started: Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire.

Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Never use gasoline or any other flammable / combustible liquids on firepits, bonfires, or campfires.

Fire pit and bonfire safety, Tom Parrish speaks with FOX 2 DetroitThe safe zone: What’s the safest distance from a fire for adults, children and pets?

The NFPA advises that children and pets maintain a distance of at least 3 to 10 feet from the flames. Educate children that every time a fire is lit, they must stay back. Even with repeated education, supervision is always essential!

Putting it out: Is there a water source or extinguisher nearby?

For any type of outdoor fire that can’t be quickly and effectively extinguished, call the fire department immediately for assistance.

For fire pits, bonfires and campfires, keep a hose, bucket of water, extinguisher, and/or shovel and dirt or sand nearby.

Outdoor fires frequently burn out of control because no one is watching to notify the fire department and prevent fire spread.

Always make sure the fire is completely out before leaving it.

High winds: What’s the weather report?

Dangerous winds can quickly turn a bonfire into a county-wide wildfire. 

Don’t forget that embers from a backyard fire pose the same threat to your home as if they are from a wildfire.  (Click here for wildfire prevention tips.)

Hot embers: Even if the fire is thoroughly extinguished, embers can remain dangerously hot after a fire.

Fire pits can remain extremely hot into the next day. Make both children and adults aware of this and supervise until all embers are cool.

Tom Parrish, Telgian Fire Safety Vice PresidentAbout TELGIAN FIRE SAFETY

Telgian Fire Safety provides professional Life Safety Systems testing, inspections and repair to 50,000+ locations annually. Expertise includes Fire Sprinkler, Fire Alarm and Clean Agent Systems, Fire Extinguishers, Kitchen Hood Suppression Systems, Backflow Systems, Emergency/Exit Lights, Special Hazards and Fire Alarm Monitoring, plus Inventory Tracking, Capital Replacement, and Budgeting/Forecasting.

For media interview requests with Tom Parrish, please contact Susan McNeill, Corporate Communications Manager at

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