Lighting a campfire in a fire pit can be fun and exciting, but at some point, the good times have to come to an end. When the night is over, how do you put out a fire in a fire pit?

In this article we take you through 3 ways to put out a campfire, weighing the pros and cons of each, and we offer a bonus tip at the end that I have found very useful!


  • Letting a fire burn out in its own is easy but can take a long time.
  • Water is very effective at putting out a fire pit but has safety concerns.
  • Covering a fire to extinguish it is effective but requires sand or dirt to do so.

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1. Let the Fire Burn Out on Its Own

a campfire that has burned itself out

One of the simplest and most natural ways to handle a fire pit is to let the fire burn out on its own. This method requires patience and a keen eye for safety.

To begin, use a poker or a long stick to stir up the ashes in the fire pit gently.

By doing so, you allow any remaining embers or hot spots to rise up and get dispersed. Make sure to wear heat-resistant gloves or use appropriate tools for this purpose.

Even though the flames may no longer be visible, there could still be areas within the burnt wood where embers are smoldering. Keep an eye on these hot spots and observe if any smoke or glowing material persists.

Patience is key here; allowing sufficient time ensures that every last ember has had a chance to cool down completely.

Pros and Cons of letting a fire pit burn itself out

Minimal work requiredLonger cooling time compared to water or dirt/sand extinguishing methods
Doesn’t harm a fire pitPossibility of accidental fires if embers are carried beyond containment areas by wind
Requires nothingNot practical if in a hurry or need to leave the area soon
May not be permitted by local regulations or homeowner associations

2. Use water to put out the fire

pouring water on a fire

One effective method of extinguishing a fire pit is by using water.

It’s important to have a 5-gallon bucket filled with water nearby, ready for action.

When you’re ready to douse the flames, approach the fire pit cautiously and make sure you’re wearing protective gloves. Slowly pour the water onto the fire, aiming for the base of the flames.

Be careful not to pour too quickly or from too high above, as this can cause embers to fly and potentially spread the fire. It’s crucial to exercise caution at all times when dealing with fires.

Remember that large amounts of steam will be produced when water comes into contact with hot embers or coals, so be sure you are not in the path of this steam (which can penetrate clothing).

Also, be prepared for an initial burst of flames as they react with the water.

Allow sufficient time for the fire pit to cool down completely before leaving it unattended. Even if there are no visible flames remaining after using water, residual heat can linger within hot coals or ashes.

Pros and cons of putting out a fire pit with water

Quickly extinguishes flamesHazardous steam and smoke from pouring large amounts of water onto hot fire pit
ConvenientPossible damage to fire pit structure over time due to rapid cooling
Reduces the risk of embers reignitingMay create muddy areas around the fire pit

3. Cover the fire

a campfire on the beach

Covering the fire is another effective method to extinguish a fire pit.

Start by carefully selecting your cover material; dirt or sand work best for this purpose.

Before you cover the fire, be sure the flames have gone out.

With a shovel, gently pour the chosen material over the fire, completely smothering it.

Try not to disturb any remaining embers while doing so because that could reignite the flames.

As you cover the fire, make sure to distribute the dirt or sand evenly across the entire pit area. This ensures that no pockets of heat remain hidden beneath the surface.

Patience is key at this stage, as even after covering with dirt or sand, residual heat may still be present within the pit’s depths and wait at least an hour or two to make sure smoke or heat isn’t still present.

Pros and Cons to Covering the Fire to Put it Out

Effective in smothering flamesMay require a significant amount of sand or dirt, depending on fire size and intensity
Can be used in areas with limited water accessNot as quick as water in extinguishing flames
Reduces the risk of embers reignitingLimited practicality if sand or dirt is not readily available
Minimal hazard (no steam or smoke)May not be suitable for aesthetic reasons, as it can leave the pit looking messy
Safer for the fire pitCan be less effective for larger fires or those with intense heat output
Works more quickly than letting it burn outRequires proper disposal of sand or dirt after use

Tip: use an infrared thermometer

I keep an infrared thermometer around when burning in my fire pit and it is really handy when helping you know if your fire is truly out or not.

top part of pit at 332 degrees

Simply aim the laser from the thermometer into the ashes and know instantly if the embers have cooled off or where hot spots may be still present in your pit.

It has also kept me from getting burned when trying to clean out the ashes or touch it before it had cooled completely.

Here is a link to the one I have in case you are interested.

Other articles you may be interested in:
How do I start a fire pit?
Best firewood for a fire pit

Cat is a nature lover who wants to help you make the most of your family and friend time in the great outdoors by offering helpful tips about fire pits, backyard activities, and camping. Learn more about Cat here.