Consult with building officials, local codes/ordinances and certified professionals before installing a fire pit / fireplace no matter what it uses for fuel — wood, natural gas, propane or gel.
Make sure the area right around your pit is clear of foliage that could catch fire. A good rule of thumb would be to allow at least 10 feet of cleared space from the pit — but again, check what is required in your area.
Most fire pits made for burning real wood come with a mesh cover. Once your fire is lit and has burned down a little, be sure to use the screen. This keeps sparks from floating out of the pit and any flammable debris from blowing into the pit.
Never leave a fire unattended.
Take wind into consideration when deciding placement and type of fire pit. Burning embers can get blown out of the fire pit, so choose a protected area if you are going with wood as your fuel.
When it comes time to actually start a fire, there are a few things to keep in mind, the most important of which is to keep your fire small. There’s no need for a blazing bonfire, and the bigger the fire, the greater the potential for disaster.
Avoid windy conditions that can blow embers. Also stay up to date on any burn bans or burn ordinances that might be in effect at different times during the year. Always have a container of water nearby and a garden hose on standby before starting the fire. Don’t put your fire out by dumping a bucket of water on it. That will just raise a cloud of steam and ash.
There’s no getting around the fact that wood smoke is a pollutant and that outdoor fire pits and fireplaces are completely unnecessary. In fact, in some cities, both indoor fireplaces and outdoor fire features of any kind are illegal. This isn’t just because of the potential for fires, but because of the pollution they produce.
Safety first, and enjoy those s’mores!