Fire pits have become a go-to backyard accessory for many homeowners, enhancing property values and extending outdoor activities into the winter months. According to a 2013 study by the American Society of Landscape Architects, 97 percent of respondents listed fire pits as a desirable addition to their backyards. However, when building a fire pit on a patio, there are measures you must take to ensure your family's safety.

Location Safety

Whether fired by propane gas, wood or ethanol, fire pits should be placed in an area free of walls or any combustible material such as trees, flowers, gardens and wood structures. Relocate patio furniture at least 15 feet from your fire pit, and don't leave any gas cans, cleansers or other combustible chemicals near the fire pit. Fire pits can crackle and set off sparks that can travel through the air and land on something combustible, which can trigger a fire. Concrete, brick and tile patios don't pose the same risks as wood decks when it comes to building a fire pit.

Wood Deck Safety

Wood decks are highly combustible, so extra care is needed when building a fire pit on this type of deck. The most effective safety measure is to mount the fire pit on a pedestal to create necessary space between the pit and the wood deck, and to allow proper heat ventilation for the pit. Stone or concrete slabs, a fire pad or bricks are also effective ways to mount a fire pit on a wooden deck, lowering the chances of a fire. Check with your city's Division of Fire to determine if you are allowed to build a pit on a wood deck, as some localities have outlawed this practice. If you can't locate a number, call your state's EPA office and ask for the open burning regulations in your city.

Overall Safety

Buy a cover for your fire pit to keep insects from entering the burners and creating an obstruction that could lead to a fire. Never leave a lit fire pit unattended, and keep children and pets away from the pit even when it's not lit. Fire pits should not be used for cooking, unless they are rated for it, and any accessories such as fake logs must be fire-resistant and specifically approved for use in a fire pit.

Fire pits should not be lit with gasoline, kerosene or anything that can create a raging fire within seconds. Use crumpled paper or a fire starter to ignite the fire. Avoid using your fire pit on windy days, and check with the Division of Fire or your local fire safety department to ensure that there are no restricted days for fire pit use. Keep water nearby to help douse a fire, and when you are finished using the pit, spread ashes on the flames first, then follow up with water to ensure the fire dies.