How to Start a Bonfire in a Fire Pit

November 3, 2019

By Ronnie


Seeking information on how to start a bonfire in a fire pit? Starting a fire is one of those things that might look simple, but try to do it and you will quickly realize it is one of those things that look much easier than it really is. But the good news is that as long as you know the fundamentals, starting a bonfire is quite simple.

Without further ado, let us get into the everything you need to know about how to start a bonfire in a fire pit.

What do I need?

A Safe place

Sounds obvious but judging by the number of bonfires that end up burning down a house or setting a forest on fire, I’d say its not something that many pay enough attention to.

A bonfire should always be done outdoors. Make sure that it is away from trees and bushes and that there is nothing above the fire such as a roof or tree branches.


You will need matches to light the fire. It does not necessarily have to be a matchbox, just any fire starter should do the job. However, matches tend to be the most convenient option of all.


This is what will help us start the fire. If you are out camping, dry sticks, twigs and dried leaves are good options. If the fire is in your garden, use old newspapers.


Wood that is slightly bigger than twigs is called kindling. They are usually not more than an inch in diameter. This type of wood burns very easy and will help get your fire going by building a coal bed underneath all the larger wood. It goes without saying that this wood must be dry.


You know these. Probably a couple of inches in diameter, this is the wood that will ensure your fire lasts by burning for a long while. Again, make sure it is dry. One dry log should be able to burn for an hour or so.


Always have some water at hand. You never know what is going to happen and it is best to stay prepared. Remember, you are the only one who can prevent a forest fire.

Did you notice I have not included lighter fluid anywhere on the above list? It wasn’t accidental. Lighter fluid is pretty dangerous and you don’t even need it. Best case scenario, your marshmallows will taste pretty weird, worst case, you set a forest or your house on fire. All we need is good old fashioned wood and matchsticks!

Starting a fire

Take out the fire pit from the depths of your shed and prepare it for use.  

Before we get into how to start a bonfire in a fire pit, it’s necessary to mention that you should add sand to the bottom. Why you might ask.

Well, because sand can soak up the heat and evenly distribute it through the pit. In addition to that, it can protect the meat bowl from the intense heat given out by the bonfire.

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Begin the process of starting a fire by laying about two handfuls of tinder in the middle of the bowl. Gather about four or five pieces of kindling and lay it over the tinder in a teepee fashion – arrange the kindling around the tinder with the sticks touching at the center.

Spark a matchstick and set the tinder on fire. The flames should move to the kindling gradually set the kindling on fire. Search the pile of firewood you have collected and add the smallest pieces to the now tiny fire. Carefully place the wood on the fire.

Protip: Do not dump too many pieces of wood simultaneously because this will extinguish the flames.

Take Safety Precautions

Be careful when poking around the flames and dropping wood into the fire. The kindling will gradually collapse on to the tinder creating embers. These embers help keep the fire going but can burn you if you are not careful.

As the smaller pieces of wood burn up, add extra wood. If the fire seems to waning, add more tinder and kindling to support the fire until the logs start to catch fire.

Always keep an eye on the fire. Not only can you ensure it does not burn out, but you can also make sure everything and everyone is safe. If the fire seems to be getting larger than you want, avoid dropping anymore wood in until it wanes down a bit.

When you want to put the fire out, start allowing it to naturally burn down about an hour or so before you are closing shop. It goes without saying that you will have to stop adding any more wood. When only the embers remain in the fire pit, throw in some sand or dirt to smother the remaining embers and heat.

How do I choose the right sized fire pit to hold my bonfire?

Excellent question. Not all fire pits are made alike. Some fire pits might be a better fit for your garden or campfire gathering than other fire pits.

Portable fire pits come in a range of shapes and dimensions while certain fire pits are built in a way that makes it easy to clean it and others are made for patios.

You will need to buy a wood burning fire pit. Any other fire pit such a gas or gel burning fire pit will not handle the extreme heat generated by a bonfire.

A larger fire pit will be an excellent option for those who have a bigger backyard and plenty of open spaces. This type of fire pit can hold bigger pieces of log and safely handle larger fires. On the other hand, they are not very portable and if it is made of cast iron, you will find it too heavy to carry elsewhere.

If you are good with your hands, you could maybe build your own fire pit. It could be as simple as digging a hole of about 8 inches and putting up prefab blocks or stones around the circumference. There are also specific metal fire rings that you could use.

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