How to light a chiminea safely

Following last week’s horrible news of a Liverpool man suffering 30% burns after trying to light his Chiminea with lawnmower petrol, I thought it would be a good idea to publish guidance on how to light a chiminea safely.
The news inevitably triggered some discussion about the safety of chimineas. We’ve been selling them since Jack’s Garden Store opened in 2009 – they are safe, as long as they are used correctly, by an adult. Fire should always be treated with respect.

Bring your family closer together

Rustic Clay Chiminea 28kg
Rustic Clay Chiminea 28kg

I heard someone say that people – and in particular children – are less experienced with open fires than they were a couple of generations ago, as fires are no longer the primary source of heat for our homes. I suppose that makes sense. But, I’ve also heard it said that because open fires encouraged the family to gather round for warmth, they would spend more time in each other’s company and be closer knit as a result. Why shouldn’t chimineas and firepits provide a similar family catalyst as an outdoor focal point, as well as a good way to teach your children to respect fire?

Burning embers are better than a roaring fire

Of course, it should go without saying that you should never use petrol – or any liquid fuel –  to light a chiminea. In fact, to get the best out of your chiminea, you don’t want a roaring fire, which will actually suck in more cold air to feed the flames, and generate less heat. Like a barbecue a chiminea generates more heat when you have a bed of glowing embers.
Secondly, you should never use your chiminea inside. It’s an outdoor fire, and should be set up away from combustible materials.

  1. It’s best to set up your chiminea in a permanent location, as it can crack if you move it after it’s been used. Make sure you set it up where you’re going to benefit from the heat, but not where it’s going to be in the way – particularly if you have small children.
  2. Pour about 4 inches of sand or gravel inside your chiminea.
  3. Place 2 bits of dry, seasoned, split firewood inside the chiminea. We sell firelogs with all our chimineas and firepits, which will do the trick! Each log has a 2-3 hour burn time.
  4. Add some screwed-up newspaper to the gap between the two pieces of firewood. If you like you can add a block of solid paraffin firelighter (the type you would use to start an open fire or charcoal barbecue) But please never use liquid fuel to start your fire
  5. Place some kindling on top of the newspaper. Kindling is small bits of wood – sticks, twigs or even dried grass. Whatever you choose, it must be bone dry.
  6. Use a long fireplace match or butane grill lighter to light the newspaper (and/or firelighter). Once the  newspaper and kindling has caught, add another handful of kindling, and the fire will begin to burn with more intensity. After a short while, the kindling will eventually ignite the fire logs and the chiminea will start generating heat.
  7. Once the kindling has gone, add a couple more firelogs. At this point there should be a full fire burning in the chiminea.
  8. The chiminea will generate the most heat once you have burning embers rather than a roaring fire. However you’ll need to top up with more firelogs as and when to ensure the fire stays alight.

That’s it. If you follow these instructions, you’ll be using your chiminea safely and happily, and generating a lot of outdoor heat for you and your family.
Have fun!
Gardener Jack

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One thought on “How to light a chiminea safely

  1. I was stupid enough to light a bonfire with petrol when I was eighteen and spent the next two weeks in agony. I don't recommend it. Sound advice, Jack, thank you.

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