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The dangers of bonfires and the risk of using accelerants

Posted by Scott Stueber, CPCU, CISR, AAI on May 23, 2023 8:55:10 AM

Bonfires and accelerantsIt’s a great time of the year to sit around a bonfire with family and friends. Relaxing conversation and delicious s’mores can create lasting memories. Unfortunately, we’ve seen or heard stories about bonfires exploding and causing significant injuries to those around them.

So, what causes such a tragedy? The use of accelerants. Accelerants are common chemicals or products that you may have around your home. Examples include:

  • Gasoline
  • Kerosene
  • Propane
  • Turpentine
  • Paper
  • Cardboard
  • Plastics

All these items are extremely dangerous and should never be used on a bonfire. These items will cause the fire to burn hotter and more aggressively which can lead to explosions. 

Why do people use accelerants?

Accelerants may be used for a variety of reasons. First, accelerants can be used to start a fire quickly. Second, if you’re using damp wood, starting a fire can be difficult or nearly impossible. Lastly, people might think it’s cool to have a huge flame or want to show off in front of friends. Unfortunately, people believe that pouring a small amount of gasoline on a fire won’t hurt a thing. 

If you want to enjoy a fire with family and friends, here are some tips that can help:

1. Use an appropriate fire starter.

Whether you’re lighting a fire in your firepit or your grill, it’s important to use the right fire starter. All-natural fire starter cubes or squares are a safe and effective way to get your fires going. If you have access to a power supply, an electric starter might work for you. Either way, your fire will burn cleanly, so you won’t be exposed to toxic fumes.

2. Learn how to build a fire.

Building a fire doesn’t just consist of throwing in a bunch of miscellaneous logs or sticks. Logs should be placed in a pyramid-like formation to create stability and space to put your fire starter in the bottom. Learning proper techniques can help you avoid resorting to dangerous accelerants.

3. Don’t use chemicals or dangerous items.

A well-built fire using smaller logs will burn for a significant amount of time. Never use chemicals, paper products, leaves, or pine needles to keep your fire going. A quick burst of flames can get out of control quickly.

4. Use the appropriate wood.

Use natural dry hardwood to enjoy a nice fire with your family and friends. Don’t burn leftover lumber scraps as they could contain chemicals. Using damp wood can lead to frustration and poor decisions.

5. Allow plenty of space.

Before lighting your next fire, be sure you have at least 10-15 feet of space around it.

6. Avoid using oversized logs.

Huge logs don’t burn well, and their mere size can overwhelm your fire pit. Using thinner logs is the smarter choice.

For additional fire safety information, check out the blogs below.

Fire pit safety tips

Grilling tips to keep you and your family safe

Preventing Grilling Fires in Apartment Buildings

Do you have any tips or information you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.

Topics: Fire Safety

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