Family around bonfire

How to Safely Build and Enjoy a Bonfire

As summer winds down, everyone’s favorite fall activities come into play. Whether you’re getting your pumpkin fix with healthy muffins or skinny lattes, or spending the day at an apple orchard, those chilly nights practically beg for a bonfire. Here are some tips to keep in mind to stay safe while preparing and enjoying the flames.

Build a Safe Bonfire

Choosing the right time to build your bonfire can make the difference between an enjoyable evening and a potential hazardous situation. Avoid starting a bonfire during dry weather to prevent a potentially wildfire. Consider postponing your fire until after rainfall for safer conditions. Likewise, monitor the wind strength, and stay aware that fire might spread as embers get kicked up by the winds.

Weather permitting, start by picking a safe place to build your fire that’s at least 50 feet away from buildings, and without any plants nearby or hanging overhead. Collect dry, seasoned wood to form your base; never use treated or coated materials like plastics, as they can form dangerous fumes when burned.

Although they may look impressive when burning, bonfires that take the shape of a tall tower can be hazardous. Tipi-shaped structures are likely to fall over as pieces of wood break apart, and they can fall at unpredictable angles. Keep your tower short and stable.

Enjoy the Fire

Once the fire is lit, ensure your guests are exercising proper safety. Pets and children should be watched closely since they can act unpredictably and accidentally put themselves in harm’s way. Arrange your chairs at least a few feet away from the fire, and encourage your guests to go around the outside of the circle of chairs if they need to get to the other side of the fire.

If the fire needs to be rekindled, be careful not to toss heavy logs onto the fire, as the impact might kick up embers. Try to place them gently on top of the fire or along its side. It may be tempting to use lighter fluid, but it can be incredibly dangerous. Dribbles, or even just vapors, from the lighter fluid bottle can cause the fire to spread quickly.

Always keep a bucket or two of water nearby in case of an emergency. If your garden hose can stretch back to the bonfire, that can be a great option as well! To put out the fire at the end of the evening, turn the embers over with metal shovels, and douse them with either the water you have on standby or sand, if it’s available.


By following these guidelines, you can ensure your family and friends have a great and safe evening around the fire. For more tips on how to keep your family well, check out more articles on the Health Minute blog.