How to put out a fire pit safely, according to the experts

Learn how to put out a fire pit properly at the end of the evening so you can keep everyone safe and prevent accidental fires from spreading

fire pit with flames at night
(Image credit: EyeEm/Alamy Stock Photo)

Knowing how to put out a fire pit safely is important, as although fire pits are a lot of fun they can also quickly get out of control. While it's easy enough to start a fire, many of us are less sure how to put one out properly once we're done. 

There's been an alarming rise in accidental backyard fires already this year and fire pits are one of the biggest culprits. While they're designed with your safety in mind, certain precautions should always be taken, especially after you've finished with your backyard fire for the evening. 

A tiny gust of wind can quickly spread hot ashes or embers over the surrounding area even though you thought your fire pit was out. A fire pit that's nearly extinguished can reignite with the right combination of oxygen, heat and fuel to trigger it.

You should never leave a fire pit burning overnight. In fact, in the US it's illegal to do so. If you live elsewhere always check with your local authority first to find out what the situation is so you can make sure your fire pit ideas don't fall foul of local regulations.

fire pit on patio with furniture

(Image credit: B&Q)

Expert tips on how to put out a fire pit

Finding out how to light a fire pit is the easy part. But don't worry – when it comes to how to put out a fire pit we've got it covered here with our expert guide. The key thing to remember is never leave a fire pit unattended until you're certain that the fire has been fully extinguished. 

'When you’re finished with your fire pit for the evening it might seem like an obvious choice to simply douse it with water to put it out,' says Liam Glennon of Von Haus. 'But this can cause rusting of the product, as well as producing steam that's hot enough to scold and injure you.'

Instead factor in the following fire pit safety tips. It’s better to be safe than sorry! 

  1. 'An hour or so before you plan on heading inside, stop adding logs to your fire. This will allow the flames to gradually burn down, as they run out of fuel,' says Harry Bodell of MyJobQuote. Allow the fire to burn for 30-45 minutes more before you put it out.
  2. If you're using a fire log or firestarter, carefully remove it with a grabber and place to one side of the fire pit to keep it away from the other logs. Spread out the remaining logs so they're not touching, as they will burn faster this way. 
  3. You can also speed up the process by scooping out ash with a shovel. 'If you choose to do this, be careful not to spread hot ashes onto any flammable areas, or onto your skin, as they will be very hot and will cause injury,' says Harry. If you have a deck fire pit, you'll need to be extra careful around your wooden deck.
  4. When the fire pit contains mainly ash it's time to extinguish your fire. 'Once the logs have burnt through, use a poker to break up any large embers and spread them out over the base of your fire pit,' says Louise Wright of fire pit specialists The Woodee. 'This gives the embers a larger surface area and allows them to cool faster.'
  5. 'After the flames have fully burnt down, carefully dousing the fire pit in water can be a quick, simple and effective method for fully extinguishing a fire when it’s no longer in use,' says Harry. Use either a couple of buckets of water or your hose on a fine spray setting. Stand well back. Keep adding water until you no longer hear any sizzling, making sure you have covered everything thoroughly. Stir the ash and embers with a poker or shovel to make sure everything is soaked. If you see any steam or glowing embers, add more water.
  6. Another option would be to cover your fire with sand or soil. 'Use a shovel to spread soil or sand over the fire pit to cool the remaining ashes,' says Harry. 'This method is actually recommended for metal fire pits to avoid rusting.'
  7. When your fire is finally extinguished do a thorough check of the fire pit and surrounding area to make sure everything has cooled off entirely and there are no stray embers. Never leave a fire pit unattended until you're sure it's out. 'Be sure to keep pets well away from the fire pit as well,' says Ava Kelly, energy saving expert at Love Energy Savings. 'Embers are still hot after the fire has burnt out, so be cautious and keep them inside until it's safe.'
  8. Clean up the cooled ashes the next day so your fire pit doesn’t rust. Find out how to clean a fire pit to make sure you carry out the job properly.

burning metal fire pits at night

(Image credit: Ivyline)

How to put out a fire pit without water

'If you need to put the fire out quickly and don’t have access to water then you can use soil or sand,' says Louise Wright. 'Covering the fire pit in this way cuts off the oxygen supply from the fire.'

'Dousing open flames with water can actually cause a fire to spread due to splashing,' says Harry Bodell. 'Try letting the flames burn out for a few hours before you plan to head in for the night. To do this, stop adding fuel and logs to your fire pit an hour or two beforehand.'

Do you need a snuffer to put out a fire pit?

A snuffer is a large sheet of metal that you place directly over the fire pit when you finish using it to extinguish the flames by blocking the flow of oxygen.

You don't necessarily need a snuffer for putting out a fire pit although many designs automatically come with one when you buy them. 

If you learned how to build a fire pit from scratch or your shop-bought design didn't come with one, simply measure up and head to the store or search online as they are widely available.

However, one thing to bear in mind is that many of the latest designs used for fire pit patio ideas feature decorative cut-outs, which mean a snuffer won't work as oxygen slips through the fretwork and the fire keeps burning. 

How do you put out a fire pit in an emergency?

Although enjoyable, fire pits (along with some other outdoor heating options) can be dangerous things if you take your eye off them. Remember it only takes a few minutes for a fire to become unmanageable. Always keep a fire extinguisher and first aid kit nearby in case of emergencies.

If you think your fire pit or surrounding area is out of control and can't be extinguished quickly, call the emergency services, evacuate your property and be sure to alert neighbors to the problem too.

Whether you're using a DIY fire pit or a ready-made design, you should always have water on hand if you're lighting a fire pit in your garden. This can be in a bucket near your fire pit, or more conveniently a hosepipe attached to the mains. 'If you need to put the fire out before it's naturally ready, dousing it with water is an effective method,' says Louise Wright. 'However, this should only be done in emergency circumstances and there are a couple of rules to follow.  

'First, don’t pour water too close to the flames as this can cause steam, which can burn you. Second, a sprinkling, like that from a watering can, is better than a deluge. If you're going down this route, it's likely that your logs won’t have burnt down to ash. In that case, you need to get your poker in and turn over the logs, then douse with water again. Always make sure the whole fire is out.'

metal fire pit with flames

(Image credit: Beaumont)

How long does it take for a fire pit to cool down?

It can take over 24 hours for hot ashes and embers to cool down completely on their own, so your fire pit is no longer considered a threat. This is why it's important to remember to extinguish all fires before leaving the area unattended.

'Make sure you wait for the fire pit to completely cool before trying to clean or move it,' says Liam Glennon. This can take some time, as ash can take up to 24 hours to fully extinguish.'

corten steel fire bowl with flames

(Image credit: Von Haus)

How do you put out a gas fire pit?

Gas fire pits are much easier to put out than wood burning fire pits as you simply turn off the gas supply, just as you would with a gas BBQ. 'After use, make sure that the gas is shut off and disconnected,' says Tim Pennell of Bramblecrest.

The only hazard with gas fire pits is if they have decorative stones or glass around them, which need to cool down before you put the cover back over it. 'Once the lava rocks have cooled, cover with the ceramic insert,' says Tim. 'During long periods when you're not using your gas fire pit, we recommend that you remove the lava rocks from the fire pit to keep them dry, place the ceramic tile over the burner tray and use an appropriate protective cover.'

Always keep the gas bottle disconnected and stored outdoors in a well-ventilated area. 

pacific lifestyle fire pit on patio

(Image credit: Pacific Lifestyle)
Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.