Fire Pit Not Staying Lit? 5 Reasons And How To Fix Them


There is nothing quite like enjoying a nice fire with friends. It can make the outdoors much more inviting and when the weather’s cool, it can make things just warm enough to be enjoyable. Unfortunately, the night can also be cut short if the fire keeps going out. Why will a fire pit not stay lit?

A fire pit will go out if the wood is too wet. The most important factor for starting a good fire and keeping it burning all night long is having dry wood. Dry wood is easily combustible, is easy to catch on fire, and will continue burning until it is ashes.

There may also be some other reasons why your fire is not staying lit. Let’s take a look at some of those different reasons and see which one is going to be the tipping point for you and your outdoor fire. With just a little adjustment, you can often be a fire master in your own backyard.

What Makes A Fire Burn?

There are three different things that are necessary for a fire to burn effectively, oxygen, heat, and fuel. That is why they often refer to these three factors as the ‘fire triangle.’ If you are missing any one of the three or anything that drives one of those three, you’re going to struggle to keep a fire lit.

Oxygen is an important factor for starting the fire and it is often one that is overlooked. As we will discuss below, you need to have the proper amount of airflow to the fire or it will not stay lit. This can be a problem with a fire pit because it is often enclosed inside of a wall or dug into the ground.

Having an adequate amount of ventilation is important to provide oxygen to the fire, but too much airflow can also put the fire out quickly. When you keep the oxygen level balanced or perhaps pick things up a little if the ventilation is inadequate, the fire will burn bright.

Fuel is also an important factor, and that is where the wood comes in. As we will discuss in this article, you need to have the right type of wood and it needs to be combustible. Wet wood is not going to work well for keeping the fire lit but softwood will also burn too quickly and you will need to keep adding fuel to the fire.

Finally, you need to have heat in order for fire to burn. If you have the other two factors in place, oxygen, and fuel, then you can add heat to the fire and it will continue to produce its own.

Is Dry Wood Better For A Fire Pit?

Dry wood is always the best option for starting a fire pit and keeping it burning for a very long time. There is no preparation, so you can simply throw it on the fire and it will burn. It also tends to burn hotter and does not smoke as much.

Most people who have a fire pit in their backyard are not going to go gather wood every time they want to have a fire. They will often have plenty of wood on hand, so keeping the wood dry is a very important factor.

If you tend to burn your fire pit frequently, then you should have plenty of wood stacked on hand. It is always best to keep it under cover of some sort so it does not get soaked with rain. At the same time, you shouldn’t completely cover your woodpile because it will retain moisture and be difficult to burn.

Keep your stacked firewood exposed on the side to allow for airflow. You can then pull wood from the top, knowing that it is dry enough to burn.

Kiln-dried firewood is also an option, although it is not as readily available and tends to be more expensive. You may end up spending twice as much for kiln-dried firewood. If you only burn your fire occasionally, it would be well worth the money.

How Do You Block Wind From A Fire Pit?

Although oxygen is an important part of a fire, too much oxygen can ruin a good thing. If you have high winds, it can make it difficult to keep a fire pit lit and can even make things dangerous. Building your fire pit with a wind block in mind or creating a temporary wind block can help to keep the fire burning.

A wind block is necessary if you live in an area where high wind is a problem. It can be built into the planning process, so that you use a natural wind block, such as a hill, building, or row of trees.

If you are not able to build the wind block into the planning process, you can always create a makeshift wind block using a large tarp and some bungee cords. It can effectively stop the wind and is movable, just in case the wind changes direction.

What Type Of Wood Should You Burn In A Fire Pit?

Oak or a similar hardwood is going to be the best choice for burning a fire pit. Any type of wood will burn, but hardwood burns longer because it is denser than softwood. Along with burning longer, it will also burn hotter so it has multiple benefits.

Softwood is always going to be easier to come by unless you happen to cut your own wood and have easy access to the hardwood you want. Just because hardwood burns longer, hotter, and with less smoke, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid softwood altogether. At times, having a ready supply of softwood is a great idea.

One reason to have some good, dry softwood on hand is for starting a fire. Softwood is going to burn more quickly and it is easier to get started in the first place. Having some pine on hand, whether it is cut and stacked or if you use some two by fours is a great way to get started. You can then switch to hardwood so the fire lasts longer.

Along with oak, which is the most readily available and best wood to burn in most cases, you can burn other types of hardwood. Some of the hardwood you may have available in your area could include ash, hickory, dogwood, and wood from fruit trees.

Don’t be afraid to throw on a piece of pine if you want to get the fire really going quickly. It is especially beneficial to use pine if the fire has died down to embers and you are ready to kick things up the flame again. After you get the flames going, you can switch to the hardwood of your choice.

Can Humidity Put Out A Fire Pit?

Humidity is a very important part of burning fire. If the relative humidity is too high, the fire will not start as easily and will not burn as readily. Any type of moisture, such as ground moisture, moisture in the air, or moisture from above can affect how well the fire burns.

Most people have heard about relative humidity as it is part of the daily weather forecast but they might not fully understand what it is or how it can affect burning your fire pit.

Relative humidity is expressed as a percentage and it just shows how much moisture is in the air compared with how much could be in the air. It is a ratio of how much water vapor is in the atmosphere compared to the saturation of the atmosphere at the existing temperature. 

Our atmosphere can only contain so much water, so if the relative humidity is 60%, then that means the air is holding 60% of the moisture it can contain.

Keeping that in mind, when the percentage is higher, the amount of moisture in the air is higher. A fire can burn, even at a very high relative humidity but it is going to burn more readily and vigorously if the relative humidity is low. Why is that?

If the relative humidity is high, then the fuel for the fire, the wood, is going to absorb the moisture. The fire will burn, but it needs to burn off the moisture and convert it to steam. Since there is more moisture in the air, it is not going to absorb that steam as readily so it stifles the burning process.

Along with relative humidity, any type of moisture on the ground can make a difference in the ability to burn your fire pit. That is why drainage is so important because having dry ground under the fire will mean a better burning fire.

What Is The Best Size Wood For A Fire Pit?

When firewood is smaller in size it is easier to start and burn. The ideal size firewood for a fire pit is anywhere between 6 and 8 inches in width. If it is smaller, it will burn more quickly and if it is larger, it may not burn fast enough to stay lit.

Most people who burn a fire pit regularly are going to have wood on hand for that purpose. If you have large logs stacked and dried, you would want to split them into half or quarters before putting them in the fire. That is the reason why people split their wood, because it burns more readily.

If you gather wood for your fire, you can gather smaller pieces for starting the fire and then larger pieces to allow it to continue burning. Since you are burning outside and likely have plenty of ventilation, you can also get away with using larger size firewood.

You can always though a large piece of firewood in the fire pit but you should use smaller pieces of wood to fuel the fire and keep the entire thing burning.

Recent Posts