Focus on Fire
Jerry Epperson -- Casual Living, March 1, 2009
“Focus on Fire and Food…” advises a recent lifestyle magazine describing the perfect design for an outdoor room.
Although food plays an important role, fire has long been one of the most enticing attractions for outdoor events and a much desired element for outdoor living spaces. Aside from being a central component of a beautiful backyard image, the reality of the addition of any outdoor fire feature is that safety becomes an important consideration for true enjoyment.
“Safety is certainly an issue with hearth product customers,” said Cathy Mazzola, retail manager, Fireplace and Verandah, Orlando and Longwood, Fla. “All the units we sell from O.W. Lee’s tabletop pits to Heat N Glo’s portable fireplaces have accessories for safety.”
The hearth industry is rich with products that provide the convenience and warming comfort of an outdoor fire while including features and accessories for the safety of the homeowner, their property and possibly that of the neighbors.
Today, the safety issue of outdoor fire features may involve regulations imposed by the locale in which one resides. Such is the case with Sedalia, Colo.-based Warming Trends, which produces a gas fire ring insert for outdoor fire pits. Its gas unit has been approved for outdoor fireplaces and pits by municipalities that have placed bans on some fire pits.
“With a spark-free ignition and a flame detection control, if a gust of wind puts out the flame, it will close the gas valve and then reattempt to light,” said Ray Stone, president, Warming Trends.
Safety in some areas also includes air quality and the impact on residents. “New laws are going into effect soon for our region that will prohibit the installation of wood-burning fireplaces inside or outside within new construction,” said Bonnie Richins, general manager, Anaheim Patio and Fireside. “Due to this, gas fire rings sell great and they are available in a number of different sizes.”
If space allows for a larger feature, there are new options for outdoor fires available that are not only safe, but energy and cost efficient. One such unit is the modular exterior fireplaces constructed of concrete reinforced with glass fiber from DBG/Designs by Garry, Inc. The structures are lightweight and can be installed by two people stacking then bolting the units together. Each is durable in a variety of climates and includes a firebox made from refractory cement. The unit accommodates up to 3,000 degrees yet the exterior is safe to the touch. One such unit was recently installed within the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
For regions in which there are no restrictions on wood-burning fireplaces, many options that address safety are available. Gaining popularity is a fireplace design that has been around for hundreds of years yet is now available in today’s durable materials, the chiminea. By design, a chiminea includes a chimney to efficiently fuel the fire with fresh air and direct smoke away from the users.
“The weight of the unit eliminates any tipping that can occur with other fire options,” said Blair Reuther, owner, The Blue Rooster Company, an Internet retailer of cast aluminum and iron chimineas. “Our customers look to the enclosed design of the chiminea for a safe outdoor fire experience. It still offers the warmth and ambiance of a fireplace with the added feature of portability.”
Cast aluminum chimineas are designed to eliminate failure in the shell of the product and can be used in any climate. Preferred for urban locations, chimineas can be outfitted with gas kits.
Several new hearth introductions this season address safety for outdoor fire enthusiasts.
“In designing the LoFerno, safety was a consideration with the design of the tower,” said Jeff Lohaus, owner/designer/metal sculptor of the Minneapolis-based business. “Burning logs cannot fall out and the tower acts as a spark arrestor.”
The unique design of the LoFerno unit provides for logs to simply drop from the top opening to feed the fire. At 100 pounds, the unit avoids being easily blown over.
An ability to contain a fire as well as the shifting of wood was a factor in the multi-function design of the award-winning 3-In-One Chiminea from Unique Arts of Madison, Wisc. Available primarily at garden centers and from catalogs, the fireplaces are made of 100% recycled copper with spark-arresting screens that add safety to the standard fire pit design.
Another metal sculptor’s talents were tapped by Danbury, Conn.-based Good Directions in the creation of its Fire Dome line for a decorative yet functional addition to outdoor fire pits.
“Many fireplace options are built for sales more than actual use and appreciation,” said Jason Long, metal sculptor/designer. “We wanted our products to be used safely and for that reason attention was paid to the weight of the product, the openings in the design and the depth of the pit.”
The designs incorporated into the Fire Domes follow a recent trend for tribal or primitive art, of which Long is a fan. The Fire Domes are available in combination with a fire pit or as a stand-alone accessory in three motifs.
“Although fire and safety do not always go hand-in-hand, it must be a constant consideration when creating and utilizing any hearth products,” Long said.
Even with its inherent risk factors, fire continues to be a focal point for outdoor gatherings. As a must-have in the creation and enjoyment of outdoor rooms, today’s fire features are built with a focus not only on providing a much-loved warming experience, but a safe one as well.