Many metal fire pits are packaged with accessories such as a mesh screen or lid that sits atop the fire bowl. This screen, sometimes called a spark screen, offers a much-needed safety feature for the fire pit, minimizing stray sparks and hot airborne particles that may otherwise escape the pit, posing a potential fire hazard.
Before igniting a fire in your fire pit, make sure it is set up at least 15 feet away from any flammable materials or structures, including your house and tree branches. Trim nearby branches or select a location farther away from trees and shrubs to ensure safety. Set the fire pit atop a level, heat-resistant and nonflammable surface such as a stone patio, not a wood deck. Once you've arranged the firewood inside the pit -- before igniting the wood -- set the mesh screen atop the fire pit to make sure it sits properly atop the bowl. If not, adjust the wood so the lid fits snugly. Keep a poker handy to remove the lid when it is hot, as this is the only safe way to remove the lid during fire pit use.
Many communities have very specific regulations regarding fire pits or "recreational fires," including what may be burned in them and how far the pits must be from nearby structures and trees. Contact your local fire department or visit your community's official website for location-specific information. Some communities may ban them outright, so finding out the regulations beforehand is in your best interest.
Using Your Fire Pit and Screen
Place a rolled up piece of paper or some dried kindling among the firewood, then ignite the fire pit using a long match or candle lighter. Blow on the flames a bit, if necessary, to ignite the wood; once the fire is roaring, grab the handle of the spark-screen lid with the tip of the poker and gently set the lid atop the fire pit. Use the poker to adjust the screen as needed -- not your hands. To add more wood or tend to the fire, put on gloves, slide the tip of the poker into the screen handle and lift the lid, setting it onto a fireproof surface such as the pavement. Replace the lid in the same fashion when finished.
Allow the wood in the fire pit to burn down to ashes whenever possible to avoid wasting wood or having to soak logs that are still on fire. Pour a bucket of water slowly over the ashes or embers to extinguish them completely. Do not leave the area until you're certain the wood or embers in the pit cannot reignite.