On a cool night, nothing beats gathering around a fire with friends. Since most of us can’t build a bonfire in our backyards, fire pits make it easy to get that same feeling without too much assembly required. Fire pits are a great decoration, and can be useful for making s’mores, but they can also be dangerous. Before you decide to invest in a fire pit, make sure you are prepared.

The first step towards a fire pit is determining where it will sit. It needs to be somewhere level on a stone or concrete area. Do not place a fire pit over grass, dirt or other combustible materials. The fire pit needs to be at least 10 feet away from your house, and not placed underneath any trees, branches or overheads. Do not put fire pits on a wooden deck.

After you determine where your fire pit will live, you need to focus on how you light it up. If you are using wood, always use dry, seasoned wood that was cut at least 6 months ago. Do not get logs longer than the size of the fire pit. To ensure extra safety, look for fire pits with a grate or cover to keep flames and sparks under control.

When lighting the fire in a fire pit, do not use lighter fluid. This might be the most convenient way to light a fire, but it is also the most dangerous. Instead, use kindling or starter logs to get the fire slowly going. If you have a gas fire pit, make sure you read all directions for operation.

Never let children near a fire pit, and make sure anyone hanging out with you understands the safety precautions they must take before they roast their marshmallows.

A fire pit can be a great addition to your backyard, if you take the necessary precautions. Now get your hotdogs and s’mores ready for great times in your yard.