KU-EHS September Safety Tip: Bonfire Safety

Bonfire Safety



A "bonfire" is a large but controlled outdoor fire used either for informal disposal of burnable waste material or as part of a celebration. The name derived from the fact that bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.

Bonfires can go quickly from a wonderful celebration to tragedy within seconds if adequate planning has not occurred before hand. The safest thing to do is to attend an organized event rather than creating your own. But if you still want to build your own bonfire, make sure you do it safely and plan appropriately. Below are a few tips to keep in mind.


  • Keep the fire > 25 feet (7.6 meters) away from buildings/vehicles and on the downwind side.
  • Avoid building the fire near low hanging branches, tall grasses, or brush.


  • Dig a hole at least 12 to 18 inches (0.3 to 0.46 meters) deep for the fire.
  • Diameter should be at least 2 feet (0.6 meter) wider than the fire itself.
  • Place small rocks or gravel along the pit bottom for drainage.
  • Fire Flames should not exceed 3 feet (0.9 meter) in height or width.

Safety Necessities

  • Keep one or two 5-gallon buckets of water or sand nearby.
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby and do not have any flammable materials nearby.
  • Once the fire burns out, use a shovel to turn materials over to ensure embers don't blow out of the pit and start a fire elsewhere.
  • Ensure at least one responsible adult is watching the fire at all times.
  • Children should not be allowed to play near the fire.
  • Do not have the bonfire during windy conditions.