Discover 6 Reasons You Should Avoid a Backyard Fire Pit

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: November 16, 2023
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When an activity is fun in the moment, it’s easy to overlook the consequences. But when you own a home, there is a lot to consider. Not only do you want to make the best out of your investment, but you also have more responsibilities. Part of those responsibilities include considering consequences for what’s in your backyard.

While backyard fire pits certainly have their list of pros, there’s a lot that can go wrong — and often does. Discover five reasons why you should avoid a backyard fire pit! Plus, get insight from a Fire Prevention Inspector on how a fun night could easily turn sour.

Discover 6 Reasons You Should Avoid a Backyard Fire Pit

1. The Fire Hazards

A-Z-Animals spoke with Patty Mundo, Fire Prevention Inspector for the City of Glendale in California. She shared the following:

“Fire pits can become dangerous if they are left unattended or during periods of high winds like we are currently experiencing in southern California. According to statistics, embers that enter confined spaces or land in combustible materials are responsible for almost 90% of home fires. While fire pits are permitted, safety precautions must be followed to ensure safety. Below are a few items that are enforced in the City of Glendale regarding fire pits:

  • Never leave a fire pit or any cooking appliance unattended.
  • Never leave kids or pets unsupervised near a fire pit.
  • Fire pits shall be 10 feet away from any home/structures.
  • Vegetation shall be clear 10 feet from any open flame. This prevents embers from landing in receptive fuels.
  • In the event of an escape fire, keep a portable fire extinguisher and/or a hose, shovel, and soil nearby.
  • Avoid starting the fire pit on windy days. Embers can travel up to five miles in the air and they have the ability to ignite when they land into small openings on the roof or walls.
  • Fire pits must be fully extinguished before leaving the area.

While fire pits are fun and great, especially during social gatherings, it’s vital to remember that they might pose a fire hazard if not used properly.”

Happy middle age couple sitting by a backyard fire pit in fall

Backyard fire pits certainly have their list of pros, but there are also downsides you must consider.

©Kristen Prahl/

While Mundo represents the state of California and specifically the City of Glendale, it brings to attention the effect of fire pits in areas that experience wildfires. No matter where you are, you must heed warnings and consider that a seemingly innocent intent to share smores with loved ones could have dire consequences.

2. The Smell

While there is something inexplicably alluring about watching flames dance in the evening, these flames are also producing smoke. For some, the smell of smoke conjures memories of days past when they enjoyed bonfires. For others, it’s nauseating. While you’re outside enjoying the warmth provided, you’re not realizing how strong the smell is and how it sticks to every article of clothing you’re wearing (as well as your hair!). The moment you walk back indoors, you completely stink up a room.

Not only that but when you have a backyard fire pit and you light it up, you need to close the windows inside your home so that the smell doesn’t get trapped inside. Now, think of your neighbors. Do you expect them to close all of their windows as well to ensure the smell of your bonfire doesn’t enter their homes? There is an unspoken rule about being neighborly. Ultimately, you don’t want to engage in behaviors that detrimentally affect the people that you live next to.

3. The Air Pollution

In keeping with the thought of being neighborly, when you have a backyard fire pit and frequently burn wood, you’re also being inconsiderate about the air pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency warns about backyard recreational fires. When you burn wood, the smoke has the potential to detrimentally affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of not just your family and guests, but also your neighbors.

Unless you have a list of all the health conditions of all your neighbors, you don’t know who might be dealing with a lung disease or a heart issue. By starting up a fire in your backyard fire pit, you could be exacerbating their conditions without even knowing it. Again, this is just not a neighborly activity. Although there are certain causes of air pollution that you have no control over, this is an example of one cause you have 100% control over. Simply avoid a backyard fire pit and enjoy the ambiance at better-designated locations like campsites.

Radiology Doctor working diagnose treatment virtual Human Lungs and long Covid 19 on modern interface screen.Healthcare and medicine,Innovation and Medical technology Concept.

There’s no way around it – inhaled smoke affects your respiratory and cardiovascular systems.


4. The Space It Takes Up

Building a backyard fire pit requires ample space. Your landscape is made up of various elements and a fire pit takes up precious real estate that you could otherwise use year-round. There are times when the conditions just aren’t right for outdoor fire pit fun. When this is the case, you have this large area taken up by a fire pit that limits use.

Placement is important too. You don’t want something built far away from your property because that leaves both you and your guests feeling like you’re missing the party. Instead of the party flowing, those by the bonfire look like kids put on time out in the corner. Instead, it’s better to make better use of your backyard and keep it available and useful year-round.

5. Mosquitoes Are Still Going to Show Up

Some might argue that a backyard fire pit is perfect to deter mosquitoes. The smoke seems to get them! However, this isn’t true. Many people experience mosquito bites even while they sit back, relax, and enjoy the dancing flames. The smoke that a fire pit emits doesn’t keep these pesky flying insects away, but it does have harmful health effects for anyone nearby having to inhale the smoke.

6. The Safety Hazards

Let’s be frank. Unless you’re devoted to living a life sans alcohol, outdoor parties with fire pits are likely to include booze. When your senses aren’t quite as sharp and you’re caught up in a moment of enjoyment, you can miss safety hazards. This is especially true if you have children or have invited guests with children over.

Simple items like matches and lighters could become a serious issue if tiny hands grab a hold of them. If the space around a fire pit is cluttered, a trip and fall could be disastrous. Once you’re tired and the party has come to an end, you might forget to completely put out the fire. A couple of hot embers mixed with wind could pick that fire right back up — and you’ll be snoozing inside without even noticing.

Cheerful young woman wearing party dress changing bulb light in patio. Happy smiling girl making preparation of party by adding lights outdoor. Happy beautiful woman enjoying fixing bulbs in backyard.

Keep the fun outdoor vibe without the fire. Consider some alternatives!

©Ground Picture/

Backyard Fire Pit Alternatives

We sound like we’re fun at parties, right? But seriously, you can have fun outdoors and enjoy the fresh air without having to gamble with potential fire and safety hazards. Here are some options that cultivate that backyard fire pit feel without all that air pollution.

String Lights

You can enjoy that fire-like glow you crave by setting up string lights in your backyard. They give the space an intimate, cozy vibe but you don’t have to worry about completely putting out a fire when you’re done and ready for bed. Just flip a switch!

Electric Space Heaters

Fires don’t just offer light. They offer warmth as well. But you don’t have to forego warmth just because you don’t have a fire pit. Electric space heaters give off a soft glow and emanate heat to keep you warm on chilly nights.

Camp Stove

A backyard fire pit is great for creating smores and other snacks. But so is a camp stove! It’s a lot safer, too. There are plenty of creative ideas you can employ to create your dream backyard without any of the cons experienced with backyard fire pits.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wirestock/ via Getty Images

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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