With some basic common sense, chimineas are really safe to use. It only takes a pinch of common sense to keep you on track. However, there may be some ideas in here that you hadn’t previously thought of. So, sit back, throw another log on and we’ll get cosy with some chiminea safety tips.
1. Things you Must Not do With Water and a Chiminea
Do not put the fire out with water.
Obviously, in case of a fire emergency, you should use whatever is at hand to put out the fire and that includes water. However, it’s much better to let your fire die down naturally over time. Dousing a chiminea fire in water will leave not only a sludgy mess at the bottom, but can be dangerous.
Using water to put out a chiminea fire is a safety risk – using water causes heat shock when for example, something goes from being very hot one instant to being really cold the next. The rapid change in temperature can cause cracks and even small explosions.
2. Be Prepared to Control Your Fire
This goes for when you are making a fire of any description – you must have the means to control the fire without burning yourself. Remember, when it gets going, it’ll be super hot.
- Fire-resistant gloves – perfect for opening and closing a chiminea door
- Fire tongs or similar fire tool that allows you to move and pick up logs
- Bucket of sand nearby – in case you need to put out the fire in a hurry
Remember, you should never attempt to move your chiminea once it’s lit. Gloves or no gloves it’s never a good idea. Have a think before you start about the placement (particularly in relation to any wind blowing) before starting your fire.
Not only is the body of the chiminea incredibly hot when the fire is lit, but it’s live flames and should be left alone in one place when lit.
You might be interested in this article with specific safety tips for clay chimineas.
3. Always Burn Small Fires in a Chiminea
If it’s a towering inferno you’re after, then perhaps the chiminea may not be the best choice for you. Chimineas are designed to be super-efficient small outdoor fireplaces. If the flames are licking out the top of your chiminea, your fire is too big. Stop adding fuel and make a mental note of how much fuel is too much!
4. Keep Clear From Buildings & Other Structures
Turning again to our common sense – chimineas can get extremely hot – especially the metal variety. You need to aim for at least a few metres gap between your chiminea and any buildings. This includes your house.
5. Never Place Under a Covered Area
It’s really important that chimineas have room to breathe and for the carbon monoxide that they release (as all fires do) has open-air directly above them in order to escape.
Also, make sure there is no overhanging foliage directly above as flying sparks and embers can potentially ignite tree branches that are above.
6. Always Place your Chiminea on a Flat Surface
Continuing the theme of where to put your chiminea, it’s got to be on a flat, stable, non-flammable surface. By non-flammable, I mean don’t place directly onto a wooden deck.
You can put your chiminea on a wooden deck but it’ll need something underneath it. You can either get a heatproof mat or make a hearth for your chin with stone or tile (or something else that’s designed to resist heat).
7. Do Not Allow Kids or Pets Near the Chiminea
It’s easy for young members of the family to get over-excited and not be familiar with the dangers of fire – particularly if the chiminea is the first time they have experienced an open fire.
Teach kids about the surface of the chiminea being hot – even long after the fire has died down. If you are dealing with toddlers or lively pets, think about using a fireguard to keep them away from your chiminea….at least until they learn.
Chimineas are a terrific way for kids to learn about fire and compared to a campfire or bonfire they are a lot easier to manage and a safe place to start.
8. Don’t Use Fire Accelerants
I know it’s tempting to start the fire quickly with liquid heat accelerants but you must never use these in a chiminea. There is no need. Using a small amount of kindling and some scrunched-up newspaper does the job perfectly well.
Remember your chiminea fire will be easy to light – the design on the chiminea protects the fire bowl from wind and so makes it far easier to control. As long as you add wood slowly, your chiminea will be up to full pelt in no time.
9. Use Dry Wood
Using dry wood is a must for minimising the amount of smoke your chiminea gives off. In terms of safety, the main benefit of dry wood is that it won’t spit.
There’s less chance of stray embers or sparks coming from the mouth of your fire when you use properly seasoned or kiln-dried wood.
10. Make Sure Your Chiminea Has a Spark Arrestor
Steel and cast iron chimineas usually come with a spark arrestor already in place in the inside at the top of the chimney stack. however, if your chiminea doesn’t have one, you can easily cut some mesh or chicken wire to size and place it inside.
This will prevent any stray sparks or embers from leaving through the top of the chimney and potentially igniting nearby bushes. This is particularly important in areas with little rain.
11. Never Leave Your Chiminea Fire Unattended
It’s always a good idea to place your chiminea in the garden where it can be visible from inside the house. Then at the end of the evening, you can keep an eye on it as you tidy up. Plan ahead and stop adding fuel about an hour or more before you intend to go inside.
This way the fire will die down naturally and be small enough that you can confidently watch it from a distance. Please never leave your fire completely unattended though – it#s a recipe for disaster as a fire can get out of control quickly.
12. Have a plan of Action to extinguish the Fire in a Hurry
Always keep a bucket of sand or soil nearby and that way you’ll have a fast, efficient way to extinguish the fire in case of emergency. Avoid using water if you can unless it is ABSOLUTELY necessary.
The rapid decrease in temperature by throwing water on a chiminea can be dangerous and also leave your chim wet and soggy which will start to eat at your chiminea.
13. Keep Fuel Away From Your Fire
Ok, so I did leave the MOST obvious one till last…but keep your wood and/ or coal a safe distance from your lit chiminea.
Again the risk here is from stray sparks that could easily ignite that super dry wood that you stacked nice and handy next to the fire.
Always try and be mindful of the surroundings of your chiminea to reduce the risk of fire. Pay particular to areas:
- that are surrounded by dry vegetation
- flammable substances like dry wood and kinding
- fire accelerant
- dry grass
Although not usually a concern in the UK, in other parts of the world where the climate is much hotter, meaning most things are dry and catch light easily – please be conscious of this and be fire savvy.
Check this article for precautions to take during a heatwave.
By following these few simple guidelines will ensure you have good control of your chiminea fire and are prepared for any eventualities. Chimineas are one of the safest types of fire you can have in a garden and now you are all caught up on the safety advice – off you go now and enjoy yours!