How To Start a Fire in a Fire Pit in 5 Easy Steps

How To Start a Fire in a Fire Pit in 5 Easy Steps

April 16, 2024

Learning how to start a fire in a fire pit is a skill that will serve you well for a lifetime in a variety of situations — not just in your backyard.

In this article, we discuss what it takes to start a fire in a fire pit and how you can prepare and maintain your fire pit for years to come.

Table of Contents


Fire Pit Safety


Check local laws and conditions

As always, safety first! Before you start learning how to start a fire in a fire pit, check local laws and regulations regarding an open flame on your property — especially if you live in the city.

Some municipalities restrict the size of fire pits to specific dimensions, while other municipalities prohibit any kind of open flame altogether.

In areas that do allow fire pits, you still may have to obtain a permit first or install safety features (e.g., raised walls of a particular depth) around the burn area.

It’s also a good idea to check weather and environment conditions in your area. If the foliage near you is very dry, your local government may issue a no-burn order to prevent accidental wildfires and other property damage.

Clear the area around the fire pit

Speaking of safety, the first thing you should do when setting up your fire pit is clear the area around and above the burn area.

Survey the space around the fire pit for anything that could be damaged or catch fire. This includes nearby buildings such as barns, sheds, awnings, and even your house. If you place the fire pit too close to an existing building, the heat can damage the walls and siding.

And be sure to pay attention to the space above your fire pit. Remember, the bulk of the heat — and a good portion of the sparks — from a fire goes straight up.

Roof projections, eaves, patio umbrellas, and even trees are vulnerable to the heat and flame that the fire in your fire pit puts off.

To prevent damage, set up your fire pit a minimum of 10 feet away from any building and place furniture at least six feet away from the fire pit. Then check for low-hanging limbs and branches above the burn area (and remove if necessary).

Allow plenty of time to let the fire die

It takes about 20 minutes for a fire to die out completely (i.e., have zero risk of reigniting or spreading), so be sure you have enough time to let this happen. Of course, you can speed things along by separating the bulk of the burn material and soaking it with water.

Another good way to prevent the fire from accidentally reigniting and spreading once you’ve gone inside is to cover the opening of the pit with a metal lid.

Have emergency supplies on hand

A single stray spark can burn exposed flesh and cause dry leaves, grass, patio umbrellas, and other flammable objects to ignite. That’s why it’s important to always have emergency supplies on hand.

These emergency supplies may consist of:

  • A bucket of water
  • A fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit

Chances are you won’t need these items if you keep your fire under control, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How To Start a Fire in a Fire Pit: What You’ll Need

Here’s a brief breakdown of what you’ll need to start a fire in a fire pit. We’ll explain more about each item in the next section.

  • Tinder
  • Kindling
  • A place to store extra wood
  • Logs to burn
  • Matches, a lighter, or flint and steel
  • Protected burn area (i.e., a fire pit or stone ring)
  • Poker or long stick
  • Bucket of water or fire extinguisher

Depending on where you’re placing your fire pit, you may also want to invest in a fire pit liner or campfire ring.

How To Start a Fire in a Fire Pit: The Steps

1) Gather tinder

You can’t just stack a bunch of two-inch logs in your fire pit and expect them to light. You have to start small and work your way up to larger material.

Gather small, dry, combustible material that lights and burns easily (called tinder). Dry grass, dry leaves, shredded bark, and newspaper all make for great tinder.

You can also purchase manufactured fire starter kits and tinder bundles if you are (or will be) in an area where natural items are scarce.

Tinder will form the base of your fire-starting setup (more on this in step three).

2) Gather twigs, sticks, and fuel logs

As mentioned in the previous step, learning how to start a fire in a fire pit (or anywhere, for that matter) requires working your way up from small burnable items through medium-sized items to large items.

After your tinder, you’ll need small twigs, medium-sized sticks (called kindling), and big logs (called fuel) to really get the fire going.

Gather or cut a range of sizes and shapes of kindling so you can feed the fire when you get your first flame and before you add the big logs.

3) Assemble the wood in one of three shapes

When learning how to start a fire in a fire pit, there are three ways to efficiently and effectively stack your tinder, kindling, and fuel logs:

  • Crisscross
  • Teepee
  • Log cabin


Set the tinder in the center of the fire pit and arrange the kindling (starting small and working your way up) in a crisscross pattern.

Once the tinder and kindling are in place, add larger logs (again, working your way up to the thickest and largest pieces) in a similar crisscross pattern making sure to leave gaps for air to circulate through the material (ventilation).


Set the tinder in the center of the fire pit and arrange the kindling by setting it on end vertically and leaning the top ends (the parts furthest from the tinder) against each other (like building a teepee).

As you do so, leave a bit of space between the pieces for ventilation and a larger opening on one side so you have access to the tinder when it comes time to set the pile ablaze.

Continue arranging progressively larger pieces of wood around the tinder and kindling in the same teepee style so they are exposed to the flame once you light the fire.

Log cabin

Set the tinder in the center of the fire pit and arrange the various sizes of kindling vertically in a teepee shape.

Next, place two large fuel logs on either side of the kindling teepee. Then, place two additional fuel logs perpendicularly across the first two logs on either side of the kindling teepee.

Repeat this pattern of fuel logs one or two more times, leaving space between the fuel logs for ventilation (and so you can get a match or lighter into the tinder) until you complete the log-cabin structure.

4) Light the tinder

Once you’ve got your wood set up, it’s time to light the tinder and get things going!

For this step, you can use matches, a lighter, or even flint and steel to create a spark. However you choose to make your flame, you’ll want to ignite the material on several sides to create a more even burn.

If you’ve got enough tinder and kindling in your setup, the flame should work its way up, igniting larger and larger pieces along the way.

It can also help to gently blow on or fan the burning tinder and kindling to build enough heat for the flame to catch on the larger wood.

5) Keep an eye on the fire

When the largest fuel logs catch fire, sit back and enjoy the blaze!

As you do, keep an eye on the fire to reduce the risk of it spreading uncontrollably and to keep it stoked and burning.

Use a fire poker or long stick to move unburned wood into the center to increase the flame and heat. You can also increase the longevity of your fire by breaking off charred wood to expose the new wood underneath.

Make sure to add more fuel logs to keep the flames going before they die out.

Make Memories With Ash & Ember

Whether you’re starting a fire in a fire pit in your backyard or on a family camping trip, you’ll be creating memories that will last a lifetime.

For those memories, Ash & Ember offers a variety of fire pits and accessories for every style and use.

From the basic Steel Fire Pit Liner and 42” Hemisphere Fire Pit to the more decorative (but still very useful) Cauldron Fire Pit Bowl and Matterhorn Pyramid Fireplace, we’ve got an option that’s sure to be just right for your backyard escape.

And if you want to take your newfound fire-making skills on the road, we even offer a Portable Pop-Up Fire Pit and a Foldable Panel Campfire Ring.

Visit today to create a backyard oasis so you can unplug and spend quality time outdoors.