How to light an outdoor fire pit – Start a fire pit with these tips

by | Oct 5, 2022 | campfire | 0 comments

My Favourite outdoor fire pit starting method

There is one way that I will always recommend when starting a fire. The Jenga method. It’s so simple and so effective, it provides a stable base of fuel and has perfect airflow to allow the fire to grow. Start by cutting some kindling into pieces the size of a celery stick. Stack them up like this. It sort of resembles a jenga game. Pop a firelighter in the middle and light the firelighter with a match or match. Once the kindling is lit then start placing wood around the edges to create a tepee structure, maintaining the airflow. If the fire is not catching, then keep adding kindling to the center.

jenga fire stacking

Outdoor fire pit safety

When looking to enjoy your fire pit there are a few safety concerns to manage first. It’s important to be safe at all times when dealing with fire. Here are a few things to consider when you have a backyard fire pit.

  • Light your fire pit on an even surface – Make sure the fire pit is stable and will not fall over or get easily knocked over. You don’t want to be dealing with burning logs and embers on the ground.
  • 10ft away from home and flammable structures – Keep the fire pit away from your home and sheds. Need I say more? Might be a good idea to invest in a fire extinguisher just in case.
  • Avoid windy conditions – Keep the fire pit managed by removing unnecessary risks. Windy conditions can blow embers around and cause dangerous situations.
  • Watch children and pets – Keep the children and pets at a safe distance. Take the opportunity to teach fire safety to the children.
  • Avoid toxins – Try not to use toxic fire lighters. There are plenty of safe, eco-friendly alternatives that make it easy to light a fire pit.

Choosing the right wood

Dry wood is the most important factor in maintaining a good fire and keeping it going. Good dry wood will maintain the flame and make it easier to add wood and keep the wood fire burning. You will often find it called kiln dry wood or seasoned wood. Dry kiln firewood production process, they simply chop the wood and bake it to remove all the moisture. Seasoned wood is chopped wood that has been stacked and left outside for 2 years. The wood naturally loses its moisture, and with the correct stacking methods, the airflow can improve the seasoning of the wood.

seasoned wood

Never burn green wood. This is freshly cut wood. It;s does not burn very well as it has too much moisture. It’s is also not very environmentally friendly as it releases a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Hardwood is better than softwood. Hardwoods burn hotter and longer than softwoods.

The better burning hardwoods are maple, oak, ash, birch and most fruit trees such as apple. These woods burn hotter and longer and have the least amount of pitch and sap making them burn cleaner and much easier to handle.

Burning a softwood often releases sticky sap that can contaminate the fire pit and be difficult to clean.

you will need to gather some kindling and tinder, it’s important that this has no moisture and burns quickly. The smaller the pieces are, the easier they will catch fire. I aim to cut my kindling to the size of a celery stalk.

Choosing the firelighter

My favorite fire starter is wax eco lighters like these. I do not use lighter fluid as it’s quite dangerous and can leave toxic residue in the fire pit. I wrote an article providing 8 alternatives to lighter fluid.

I recommend buying these little wax bundles or even making your own from candles, saw dust and egg cartons.

wax firelighter

What ever you use make sure it is safe and easy to light, you don’t want to be fiddling with a firelighter that doesn’t seem to want to catch fire.

Get yourself some long cooking matches or a long butane lighter. This helps keeps your hands away from the flame.

I keep a small selection of firelighters and a lighter in a little box that I move around to the various locations I am starting a fire. I use the same method when I am starting a campfire, barbecue or fire pit.

Fire structure

laying out the tinder and kindling in the correct structure helps maintain the correct airflow and helps light your fire quickly and efficiently.

I prefer the jenga stacking method. As I have mentioned many times and recommend this was the best way to make your fire. Simply stack the kindling on top of each like in the photo and place the firelighter in the middle.

Another method is the tepee method. Personally, i find this harder as it relies on having perfect selected bits of kindling that will rest against each other to make the tepee. Some people prefer this so use what ever works for you.

But in both methods, the important thing is to use a firelighter to light the tinder and allow oxygen to move freely.

Traditional fire starting

This is the most basic and important method to learn. Once you learn this you can light a fire anywhere. It’s important to have everything ready like we discussed above. Have some dry kindling and tinder, use some seasoned logs to fuel the fire and you choice of fire starter. You can then use a lighter, matches or even a flint striker like we do here.

Once you have the kindling burning and the fire is growing steadily. Start feeding it with some of the smaller seasoned logs. Keep adding as necessary.

Fire Log fire

A fire log is a manufactured log that is made by pressing sawdust, cellulose, and waxes. They can be used on all types of fires, open hearths indoors, wood burners, campfires, and fire pits. They are very environmentally friendly and a great alternative to traditional seasoned firewood. They have such a low moisture content that they light very easily.

Some fire logs are individually wrapped, the paper has a wax coating and acts as a firelighter. Simply light the wrapping and let it light the inner fire log. A very simple and easy method to light you fire pit.

The other fire logs that are not individually wrapped are just as easy to light. Place a wax firelighter on top or next to the edge. As they have no moisture they catch fire very quickly and you can get a fire going almost immediately.

Electric fire starter

Using an electric fire starter is like using a cheat code. They work so well that some people swear by them, and if you have the cash, why not give this a go?

Set up your firewood in either a jenga or tepee style and use this electric starter to force a powerful, concentrated heat on the firewood to light the fire.

There are a few brands that manufacture electric firelighters to help you start a fire in a fire pit. Such as the looftligher and the grenadier, they are both multi-functional and can be used for your fire pit, barbecue or your log burner inside.

How to Keep the fire pit fuelled

Now that you’ve got the fire pit started, you need to keep it fueled. Keep using seasoned wood logs and add them to the center of the fire pit. Once the fire pit fire is up to the right heat, all the logs that you add to it should start burning very quickly.

Pro tip: Once you have your fire burning, keep some firewood logs close so they can warm up. They will lose some of their moisture, and when you add them to the outdoor fire pit they will burn much more quickly.

Why won’t the fire pit stay lit

There are two main reasons why your fire pit is not staying lit or is difficult to light. Moisture and oxygen.

If you wood has too much moisture in it then it will not catch fire as quickly and can seem like a battle. Always make sure you have some well seasoned wood or a fire log available.

If you’re struggling to start and maintain the burning kindling, it is usually because of oxygen. A small fire needs lots of oxygen to burn hot and to spread. Make sure when you are starting the fire you use the jenga or tepee method to supply the fire with oxygen. If it’s slow to burn keep adding pieces of kindling to help it burn hotter. Sometimes it can take some time for the kindling to burn well but as long as it is dry. You should have no problem.




Colin has been grilling, smoking, and barbecuing in his yard for as long as he remembers.  His favorite dish is pork belly smoked on his favorite offset smoker. Read more about Colin here.


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