Many people love to have a fire pit in their backyard because it provides a nice, cosy atmosphere. After the fire has been burning for a while and you’re ready to call it quits for the night, there are often still some embers remaining. You may wonder, can you leave embers burning in a fire pit?
Leaving unattended embers in a firepit is both illegal in many areas as well as dangerous. External elements such as wind can easily reignite the embers and lead to a wildfire. Most jurisdictions require that you completely extinguish your fire before leaving it unattended.
In this article, we will discuss what can happen if you leave your embers burning and how best to extinguish them safely so as not to cause any harm.
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Can You Leave a Fire Burning Overnight?
As mentioned above, in most jurisdictions, it is not legal or considered safe to leave a fire burning overnight. In order to learn about the specific laws in your area, you should contact the local fire department or your local governmental offices.
In addition to regulations in regards to leaving fires unattended, local governments also have laws regarding the type of pit you are allowed to have as well as the types of materials you can burn. For example, some areas prohibit open-air fires while others have laws requiring that your fire has a screen.
In many areas, there are also burn bans. A burn ban is a government-imposed period of time where no fires are allowed due to the dryness of the air or other environmental factors.
Can You Leave Embers in a Fire Pit While Camping?
In general, campsites do not allow for unattended fires. This is especially true if they are managed by a government agency. Commercial campsites may also have limitations due to safety codes. In the US, you can find the national and state park regulations by contacting the park office in advance.
Because most campsites have fire rings or designated areas for fires, it is expected that you will extinguish your embers before leaving them unattended. Many campsites also do not allow wood with high moisture content such as cedar and redwood to be used because they can cause an excessive amount of smoke.
It’s also worth noting that fires aren’t usually allowed in primitive campsites. This is because even a small amount of embers that are still burning can easily cause a wildfire. Most backpackers bring safer and alternative fuel sources such as a backpacking stove and propane.
Why Is It a Bad Idea to Leave Embers Burning?
Ultimately, the weather and conditions are unpredictable when having outdoor fires, and you never know when the wind will pick up or when a burn ban might be issued.
An ember can be carried a surprisingly far distance and an unattended fire can become a raging structure or wildfire in as little as 5 minutes. Even if you think that your embers are fully extinguished, it’s possible that they can reignite and cause a fire.
Leaving embers burning is dangerous because it puts yourself, your property, and others in danger of catching on fire.
How Long Can Embers Burn?
There is a large range of time when it comes to the length of time embers can burn. This is largely due to a variety of factors such as how large and deep your fire pit is and what type of wood you are using.
For an average-sized fire that has been burning for about two hours, embers will remain for 3 hours up to 24 hours. In general, the deeper your fire pit is and the longer you have been burning fuel in it, the more embers that will remain behind.
The type of wood you are using also has an effect on how long embers burn. Hardwoods such as oak and maple tend to leave hotter coals than softwoods. This is because hardwood has a higher density, which causes it to burn longer and hold more fuel.
Embers are also hotter the larger they are and depending on how many logs you put onto your fire. If there is more oxygen available for combustion (meaning no other fires or flames nearby), embers will burn faster than if they were surrounded by unlit logs.
How Do You Extinguish Embers?
There are a few different ways to put out your fires. The best option for you will depend on where you are and the type of fire pit you have.
Use Dirt or Sand
One common method for extinguishing embers is to cover your entire fire pit with dirt or sand, which will cut off the oxygen supply to the coals. If you want a clean way to put out your fires, this can be an ideal choice. It’s also helpful in areas where there isn’t access to running water.
The dirt and sand should be layered several inches thick to be effective. Make sure to evenly spread the dirt or sand so that no embers are exposed.
Another common method of extinguishing coals is pouring water onto the fire pit for several minutes until they are fully extinguished. This works best with larger fires that have been burning for many hours. It can take a long time to extinguish embers in this way if you don’t have a continuous stream of water.
Using a garden hose will quickly put out a fire if it is available, but a bucket or similar container will also work in a pinch.
There are a few drawbacks to using water to extinguish embers. You will want to be careful when pouring water onto a fire pit as it can cause sparks and embers to fly out. Water will also leave behind ash and steam, which could damage your clothes or gear if you aren’t careful.
If you still have some larger pieces of wood in the fire pit that you would like to reuse at another time, the water will make it harder to reignite them later on.
Use a Snuffer or a Lid
If you want to continue using your fire pit after extinguishing the embers, it will be easiest if you have a snuffer or lid for it. These are usually made out of metal and can quickly cover up most fires with little effort on your part.
Some fire pits come with a snuffer already included and they can usually be found in fire pits with metal grates. If this isn’t an option, you will have to purchase a separate one. Make sure that you are mindful of the measurements of your firepit so that the lid you purchase will fit.
It’s good practice to make sure that you never leave embers burning in a fire pit. If you are planning to leave your campsite for an extended period of time, you should fully extinguish the embers before leaving.
Even though you may feel that you have control over your firepit, it’s important to remember that this is a volatile, unpredictable, and powerful force. Anything can happen, and a disaster can occur in an instant.
If you pay attention to the regulations in your area and stay aware of the weather conditions, you should be able to enjoy your fire safely without any problems.