Firepit precautions and disasters

After I had my listing up a few months, I realized the back yard needed something to make it more enticing. After lots of discussion—I liked the idea my husband did not—we decided on a free standing wood burning firepit.
We found one at homdepot that was free standing, had a cover, an additional grill screen for cooking and a wood poker on sale for less than 100 dollars. I was excited. We researched the city regulations and set up the pit in the back yard, on pavers, surrounded by gravel 20 feet away from the house and 15 feet away from any of our cedar fences. The first few guests used it and loved it. No problems. The next guests left the fire unattended, it roared back to life, one of the neighbors called it in and the fire truck arrived and made the guests put it out. Yikes. I updated my house rules to include Obey firey restrictions. Do not leave fire unattended. Put the fire out completely with a hose before retiring etc… One of the next two guests then proceeded to cook something on the firepit using and ruining two of our best teflon pans. I couldn’t even charge them for it because both the new cleaning lady and I missed the scorch marks, but a guest went to cook some eggs noticed the damage and sent me pictures right away. Lesson learned. My husband was right. I think I will quit while I am ahead and pull the firepit once the next two reservations are completed before anything else happens and I am leaving an additional house rule Do not use house pans on the firepit! Anybody ese have any fire pit disasters?

1 Like

No but I wouldn’t have one - or even a barbecue grill. Our attorney advised against supplying any of these things years ago and the more horror stories I read, the happier I am that he did. :slight_smile:


We do hava a propane grill, as well, and considered removing that too. I may take your suggestion and do that.


Guests and fire are a risky combination. Very few people are familiar with how to deal with fire safely even though they find it romantic.

On another note- watch the movie Dark Waters- you’ll never use a Teflon pan again.


As hosts, it our instinct to want to provide our guests with extras and additional amenities. But the more you start to think about the bad things that could happen, it’s easy to decide otherwise.

We thought at one time about gas grills, kayaks, bikes, paddleboards and various other things but our attorney told us that it would be our responsibility to maintain them in perfect working order.

Then, we’d have to supply safety equipment such as bike helmets, life-jackets, extra fire extinguishers etc. To add to this, the likelihood is that your STR insurance won’t cover them (or accidents via them) or if they did, the premiums would go sky high.

So I have a great lists of places where guests can rent bikes, kayaks etc. In our area, local parks have basic grills that I tell guests about it they like to barbecue. I’m being helpful without the risks. :slight_smile:


Thanks for this. I have a gas grill at my home share, that I can monitor…but not at the whole home place. I just received a nice 5-star review from the latter property, but she also stated that the neighbors were all BBQing and they really would have liked to have a grill.

We’ve been wracking our brains on how to provide a grill that was safe, didn’t run the risk of leaving the gas on, keeping a charcoal grill clean, etc, etc. Even with safety aside, any kind of grill just seems like an extra hassle that we don’t want to deal with. You’ve just convinced me to skip it all together! :slightly_smiling_face:


My most loathed chore is to clean the greasy, revolting thing!


That’s fine- they can BBQ to their heart’s content at their own home if their neighbors doing it makes them want to as well. . Doesn’t mean that option has to be available in a place they rent.


Another option that I’ve mentioned to guests is that there are disposable barbecue grills available. A sort of foil tray holding charcoal with a grid atop. $4.99 or something. :slight_smile:

I don’t supply them but I tell guests where they can buy one.


<sarcasm>They make great fire starters.</s>

1 Like

We live in a beach town and everyone wants to come here and barbecue. Besides the proximity to the Boardwalk (which is unfortunately now closed), the number one question we get asked is, do you have a bbq? I have never once in my life used a barbecue but realized the necessity of investing in one. I have a propane one but a few weeks back, some guests decided to bring their own, and use charcoal. They threw the charcoal into a trash bag which was leaning against my house. The guests did not realize the bag had a used pinata inside. It smoldered like that for hours until it burst into flames. Very fortunate for us, someone was walking by the house and noticed it. Even luckier, one of the guests wasn’t feeling well, and while everyone else was out, he stayed at the house during the day. They sprayed the hose on it. A neighbor texted us to tell us what he saw, and I shakily drove up to the street blocked off with fire engines and police cars. Absolutely TERRIFYING!!! Feeling very grateful to that anonymous passerby and the amazing fire department. The house suffered some severe damage but as the house is over 100 years old, there were multiple layers of paint it was working it’s way through. The guests, who happened to be in the building industry, had it repaired by the time the next guest checked in the following day. Of course, they were horrified and felt awful.
At this point, we are still allowing the use of barbecue because it is the most soft after feature. We are nervous that if we don’t supply the propane one, people will sneak in their own with the charcoal.


As someone who has recently rented many vaca homes and used the grills everytime (both gas and charcoal) - i expect to clean the grill myself with that wire brush after it gets hot. I"ve never encountered a cleaned grill but it’s not a big deal - I burn off the crud and brush it and then cook my food.

And if there are half burnt coals in a charcoal gril (wouldnt you rather the coals be left in there where they can’t set anything on fire?) i just pour my coals on top. Is that an issue - am i supposed to be emptying coals and ash from previous use before pouring new coals in?

Did the people who set the house on fire dump hot coals in a bag cuz they were trying to clean up after themselves?

Maybe remove the grill screen from the fire pit so it’s not an invitation for people to imagine it as a grill. It’s bizarre that ppl would even want to put a fry pan on top of a fire pit. (Do you not have a bbq & they got desperate?)

By any chance are you near a lake where there’s fishing? I bring my own electric skillet to lake homes just to fry fish outside (so I dont stink up the rental house). Maybe the guests were trying to avoiding cooking something like that inside but didnt realize you need a cast iron skillet?

Guests are strange and often make poor decisions. I blame the drinking & being out of their element…


I have a fire pit and I’ve never had someone cook on there, or put something in it. I have rules about using not using it in wind but I don’t know if people pay much attention to rules. The more stuff you make available to people, the more problems you face.


So do I. And I always tell them that no, we don’t. Also that any grilling or outdoor cooking isn’t allowed as per the rules mandated by the state. The state abides by the National Fire Protection Association. These rules say that any grills are not allowed on balconies, under overhangs or within ten feet of any structure.

There is no suitable place for grilling which isn’t within ten feet of a building. Well, they would be allowed to grill in remote areas of the parking lot but I doubt anyone would want to do that when there are free-to-use charcoal grills on the beach and scenic areas in public parks.

Grilling other than on the provided grills isn’t permitted on the beach or in public parks.

How about an electric grill? The rules in NYC about grills are super strict, no fire allowed at all. However, it was legal to have an electric grill. We had a terrace on one of our aparttments and I got my husband an electric grill. He was satisified with it. It looked like a regular grill and was 100% better than no grill at all. Personally, I liked it better because I don’t like that charcoal flavor on my food.

This isn’t the one he had but it’s similar. His actually looked more ‘real’.

We have a big yard now and have 3 charcoal grills and a firepit. But we live in the same building and we can watch the use of them. I make my guests request the charcoal/bbq tools or firewood. This gives me the opportunity to drill them on their experience with fire and fire safety. We get a lot of “city slickers” coming to stay and most of them are happy for me to start the fire and guide them through putting it out when they’re done. Nonetheless, my husband will wait up and go out and re-extinguish it himself once they’re finished. They have to be done by 11pm so it’s not hard. The majority of guests actually ask if we’ll join them. So, we have a different situation and it works.

No one tries to cook on the firepit because we have grills but if someone wanted to make marshmallows or weiners out there, it wouldn’t bother me. Our firepit has a grill cover on it because, technically, it has to be able to be cooked on to make it legal in our town.

We definitely don’t ask the guests to clean out the grill. There’s nothing wrong with left over charcoal in there. I definitely wouldn’t want the guests needing to dispose of it :open_mouth:


I’m working on memory here so if I’m proved to be wrong, I’m wrong. But I believe that at one time, electric grills and outside ranges were exempted from the rule. But, this was amended at a later date (I’m thinking it was about five years ago) so that the ruling included electric appliances too. There are pretty strict rules about where they can be stored too. for instance, you can’t store a grill on a balcony.

I can see both apartments from mine and can watch comings-and-goings because I work from home (and did pre-COVID) so I could see (and smell!) any illicit grilling going on. It would probably be with one of those disposable ones if it happened.

But the free grills that are available are on the beach, under banyan trees, overlooking waterways … much nicer. And there are picnic tables, often covered to protect users from the sun. So that’s more of an event or adventure that simply grilling in a yard. (I think so anyway :slight_smile:)

So I guess the answer is for hosts to check with their state’s regulations. And their insurance company. I wouldn’t want to be sued for any burning accidents. I once knew a man who had a gas canister explode on his face. It was a small canister and quite a few years ago when they were probably less safe, so he was okay. But the thought of any burn injuries happening to a guest is scary.


They were definitely trying to tidy up the coals and didn’t realize they were still smoldering when they put them in the bag with the pinata! We don’t allow coal use but we also don’t allow dogs or cigarette smoking. This doesn’t stop folks from sneaking them in. We live close by but not on the property so are not able to monitor everything guests are doing. These guests brought their own charcoal grill even though we provide a propane one.

1 Like

I have a grill that has a side burner as well but the pan was so scorched only a very hot fire could have done it. One of the pans was a flat pan that you can make french toast on and it was warped .My husband tried to salvage it. He used a wire brush and hammerred out the warp but it is now an old pan not a brand new Tfal. I suppose it could have also occurred if the left it on the side burner at too high of a temp for too long as well, but we are thinking fire