Why accidental garden fires are on the rise this summer

A home insurance company is concerned about an alarming rise in accidental garden fires already this year and says fire pits are one of the biggest culprits

circular fire pit under trees
(Image credit: Firepits UK)

We all love the warm glow of embers and the scent of woodsmoke, but experts at Admiral, a home insurance company, are warning that the number of accidental garden fires in the first five months of 2022 is already higher than in the previous three years. 

They are urging homeowners to exercise caution, especially if they're recently purchased one of the best fire pits and are now planning lots of evenings alfresco around the flames.

April and June represent the worst months for garden-related fires, Admiral says, as we all venture outdoors to tidy up our gardens in spring and then enjoy spending time entertaining alfresco with family and friends in summer. 

toasting marshmallows over a fire pit

(Image credit: Firepits UK)

Accidental garden fires warning

Annual incidents have spiralled in the last two years, with Newcastle topping the list of postcode areas in the UK experiencing the highest number of claims, and the wider north-east of England reporting more than any other region.  

'Over the last two years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of fire claims caused by fire pits, barbecues, bonfires and the burning of garden waste,' says Noel Summerfield, head of household at Admiral (opens in new tab)

'In 2020, as the UK spent a lot of time in lockdown, the number of incidents jumped by 26 per cent, and last year the number went up again slightly and was 28 per cent higher than 2019.'

modern fire pit with large flames

(Image credit: Beaumonde)

Fire pit threat

Indulging in the latest fire pit ideas is one of the most popular ways to extend warm summer evenings, but they require caution. 

'We’ve particularly seen an increase in claims related to fire pits as they grow in popularity,' says Noel. 'We’re especially urging people to take extreme care if they are topping up the fuel of a bio-ethanol fire pit which is lit or switched on because they are extremely flammable.'

bio ethanol fire pit tower

(Image credit: Charlton Island)

Safety first

Sally Coulthard, author of The Little Book of Building Fires: How to Chop, Scrunch, Stack and Light a Fire (available at Amazon) (opens in new tab), says you should always take care with what you burn on a conventional fire pit, avoiding sheet materials such as MDF, chipboard, melamine, veneers, hardboard, plywood, laminate and engineered flooring, painted or varnished wood, outdoor timber such as decking, cladding. 

Also, avoid gates, fences and posts, salvaged sleepers, telegraph poles, old and unwanted sheds and summerhouses, because they will have been treated with preservative. 

Sally's top tip for how to light a fire pit safely? 'I would say the best tip of all is, before you light anything in a garden, have a plan for how you’d put it out,' she says. 'Always keep a bucket of water, sand or a garden hose nearby for emergencies.'

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance gardening, homes and property writer who writes about everything from swimming ponds to skyscraper apartments, for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. Awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021, she has a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and a lifelong love of homes, interiors and gardens. Her first memories include planting potatoes with her grandfather and drawing houses. Her own garden - her fourth - at home in a 1920s house in Yorkshire, is south-facing and on the side of a valley. It’s a constant challenge