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Woodstock Magazine

How to Construct the Perfect Backyard Bonfire

Jun 27, 2013 12:56AM ● Published by Erin Frisch

Summer is upon us—time for lots of late-night gatherings in the backyard! For some people, this means outdoor activities like barbecues and pool parties, and for others a backyard bonfire is what it’s all about. Backyard bonfires can be great fun, but you must be mindful when planning one. You are, after all, playing with fire. Your goal is to create good times and pleasant memories, not injuries. Be especially careful if you will have children present. Each town has restrictions so before you head out to your backyard call or look online to find out restrictions in your areas. Here are a few tips on how to construct the perfect backyard bonfire.

1. Gather Firewood/Kindling.

The first step in constructing the perfect backyard bonfire is having plenty of material to burn. Firewood is your basic ingredient, and luckily it is plentiful and cheap here in New England. Other than firewood, you’ll need some kindling to get the fire started. If you happen to have a tree in your yard, look around it for loose bark, twigs, or pine needles. Old newspaper is also useful, so if you don’t have any in this digital age, buy a Sunday edition prior to you event, and after you’ve enjoyed reading it, you should have plenty.

2. Dig A Hole.

If you happen to have a fire pit, then ignore this step. For the rest of us, the best way to designate a spot is to dig a hole in the backyard. Digging a hole not only helps to contain your fire but also helps protect the base of the fire from wind. The width and depth of the hole depends on how big a fire you would like. While the pit will help contain the fire, it is a good idea to make a barrier around it. The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to gather large rocks in your backyard and use them to build a perimeter around the hole. If you don’t have access to rocks that are suitable for the job, then other non-flammable items like bricks will do.

3. Safety First.

As the old saying goes, “If you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.” Many people have learned this the hard way; don’t be one of them! If you take a few commonsense precautions, the fire will not rage out of control, and no one will get hurt. Before you light it, make sure you and your friends have what you need at hand to douse it if it does get too large. If you dug a hole, then you will have a pile of dirt nearby—handy for putting out the fire and refilling the hole when you’ve extinguished it. Several buckets of water, a hose attached to an outdoor spigot, or a fire extinguisher would be handy as well.

A backyard bonfire is good clean fun, but know what you’re getting yourself into before you strike that match. With a little practice, you’ll be able to construct a perfect backyard bonfire. There is a lot that can go wrong, from a fire that fizzles to painful burns. However, with the right preparation and a few safety precautions, things can only go right. With that said, plan ahead, be safe, and have fun.

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