Can You Burn Pine Wood in a Fire Pit? Pros, Cons and Safety

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You’ve likely heard the crackle and smelled the unmistakable scent of burning pine either in your neighborhood or on your last camping trip. As a soft wood, can you burn pine wood in a fire pit safely? The answer is yes, with a few precautions.

Pine is known for its high sap content and distinct fragrance, making it a popular choice for outdoor fire pits. Yet, it’s not without its challenges. Pine burns quickly and produces a lot of smoke, which can be problematic. Plus, it creates creosote, a substance that requires regular cleanup.

In an outdoor setting where smoke and cleanup are more manageable, pine can be a great option. However, it’s essential to always keep safety in mind and adhere to local ordinances.

In this article, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of using pine in your fire pit, its heat output, and what you can expect from its aroma when burned. Let’s get started:

Can You Burn Pine Wood in a Fire Pit? Key Takeaways

  • Pine firewood is safer burnt in an outdoor fire pit than indoors due to its smokiness and creosote buildup.
  • Burning pine in a firepit allows for the classic campfire smell.
  • Pine firewood burns fast and does not produce long-lasting coals.
  • It is not suitable to use when cooking on your fire pit.
  • Dried pine needles and cones can be used as fire starters.

The Qualities of Pine Wood


Pine wood is a common choice for burning in outdoor fire pits due to its high availability, especially in certain regions. However, understanding its burning qualities is essential for a safe and enjoyable fire pit experience.

  1. Aroma: Pine is well-loved for its distinctive, pleasant aroma when burned. It can add a wonderful ambiance to your outdoor gathering.
  2. Burn Rate: Pine is a softwood, which means it burns quickly and hot. While this can be great for starting a fire, it can require more frequent replenishment to keep the fire going compared to hardwoods.
  3. Crackling Sound: Pine wood tends to create a comforting crackling sound when it burns, adding to the overall outdoor fire experience.
  4. Sparks: Pine wood contains a lot of sap, which can cause the wood to pop and throw sparks when it’s burned. This can potentially be a safety hazard, so it’s recommended to use a fire pit screen to contain any sparks.
  5. Smoke: Pine often produces more smoke than hardwoods, and the smoke can be thick and black if the wood isn’t sufficiently dry. The smoke can be irritating to some people and may leave a resinous smell on clothes.
  6. Creosote Buildup: Because of its high sap and resin content, burning pine can result in a significant buildup of creosote, a sticky and highly flammable substance, in the chimney or flue of enclosed fireplaces. However, this is less of an issue in open outdoor fire pits.
  7. Environmental Impact: While burning pine can release more particulates into the air compared to hardwoods, sourcing it locally can often have a smaller carbon footprint than transporting hardwoods over long distances.

Remember, dry wood is the key to a good fire, so ensure your pine is well-seasoned before burning it in your fire pit.

Different Species of Pine in the US

There are many species of pine trees, with different species more suited to building and construction than others used for milling, matchmaking, and carving. Some are native, others purpose grown in plantations for the construction industry.

The United States is home to a large variety of pine tree species. Below are some of the most common ones:

  1. Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus): Native to eastern North America, Eastern White Pine trees are known for their long, flexible blue-green needles.
  2. Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa): This tall tree, also known as the Western Yellow Pine, is often found in the mountainous regions of the western United States.
  3. Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda): Common in the Southeast, Loblolly Pines are among the tallest pine trees and are a major source of timber.
  4. Longleaf Pine (Pinus palustris): Native to the Southeastern United States, these trees are known for their long needles and large cones.
  5. Sugar Pine (Pinus lambertiana): Found along the Pacific Coast, Sugar Pines are known for having the longest cones of any pine tree.
  6. Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta): This species grows in the western part of North America and is often found in areas that have been recently disturbed by fire.
  7. Slash Pine (Pinus elliottii): Native to the Southeastern United States, this tree is often used for timber and pulpwood.
  8. Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata): Common in the eastern and central United States, these trees have shorter needles and are often used for timber.
  9. Pitch Pine (Pinus rigida): Native to the northeastern United States, these trees are known for their irregular growth form and ability to withstand fire.
  10. Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana): This medium-sized tree is often found in the eastern United States and is known for its short, twisted needles.

Pine Compared to Other Woods by BTU, Coal and Burn Quality

ponderosa pine trees for wood

Here’s a comparison of pine and some other popular firewood types, measured by their BTU output. BTUs, or British Thermal Units, calculate the heat energy produced when the wood is burned.

Firewood TypeBTU per CordNotes
Pine (Ponderosa)Approximately 15.2 millionPine is a softwood that burns quickly and hot, making it excellent for starting fires. However, it tends to spark and smoke more than some hardwoods.
Oak (Red)Approximately 24 millionOak is a hardwood that burns very slowly and produces long-lasting, hot coals. It’s excellent for sustained heat but takes longer to dry and ignite.
Maple (Sugar)Approximately 25.5 millionMaple, like oak, is a hardwood that burns slowly and steadily, producing a good amount of heat. It also has fewer sparks and less smoke than pine.
Birch (Yellow)Approximately 20.6 millionBirch is a hardwood that burns fairly quickly but still offers a good heat output. It also produces a nice aroma when burned.
Ash (White)Approximately 20 millionAsh is a hardwood known for its fast lighting and steady burn. It also has a lower moisture content, making it one of the easiest woods to split.
Cedar (Eastern Red)Approximately 13 millionCedar is a softwood known for its aromatic smell when burned and its ability to repel insects. It burns relatively quickly and doesn’t provide as much heat as hardwoods.

These numbers can vary based on how well-seasoned the wood is and the specific subspecies of the wood. While softwoods like pine and cedar tend to have lower BTUs than hardwoods, they’re often easier to ignite, making them a popular choice for starting a fire in a fire pit.

Pros of Burning Pine in a Fire Pit

Pine firewood is great for kindling due to its high resin content, which makes it easy to ignite. The distinct smell makes it a popular choice for outdoor use. However, keep in mind that safety precautions for burning pine firewood should be taken.

It’s crucial to avoid burning exclusively pine in your fire pit due to the high creosote buildup, which can be a fire hazard. Mixing it with other hardwoods can increase heating efficiency while reducing the risk.

So, enjoy the warmth and aroma of pine, but remember to burn responsibly.

Cons of Burning Pine in a Fire Pit

Despite its appealing aroma, there’s a downside to using pine in your fire pit. The main issue is creosote buildup. Pine, rich in sap, produces creosote when burned – a substance that can accumulate in your fire pit or chimney, leading to potential safety concerns. This sticky, flammable residue can ignite, causing dangerous chimney fires.

Additionally, pine tends to burn fast and doesn’t provide long-lasting heat or coals. Its high smoke production can be bothersome, especially if you’re hanging out around the fire pit. Moreover, the sparks from burning pine can be a fire hazard.

Therefore, while pine’s easy to find and smells great, these drawbacks should make you think twice before using it exclusively in your fire pit.

Heat Output of Pine (BTU)

Feeling a chill in the air? Don’t count on pine to keep you toasty, as it’s sadly lacking in the heat output department. Pine firewood has a BTU range of 15.9 to 21.1 million per cord, which is lower compared to other popular firewoods, like Green Ash, Maple, and Bur Oak.

This means it burns fast and doesn’t produce long-lasting coals or sustained heat. It’s not the best for cooking either, given the high level of smoke and low heat output.

Smell of Pine When Burning

The distinct smell of burning pine, while pleasing to some, isn’t ideal for every situation. It’s not recommended for cooking, as the strong scent can alter the taste of your food.

Health concerns also arise with burning pine. Its high sap content produces a substantial amount of smoke that can irritate the respiratory system if you’re in close proximity for extended periods. While enjoying a fire pit, remember to situate yourself upwind to avoid inhaling excessive smoke.

Frequently Asked Questions

burning treated wood in fire pit

Can you burn treated wood in a fire pit?

No, it’s not safe to burn treated wood in a fire pit. Burning treated wood releases toxic chemicals, which can be harmful to your health and the environment.

Can you burn pine cones in a fire pit?

You can burn pine cones in a fire pit. They are great fire starters due to their resin content, and add a pleasant aroma. However, they burn quickly and can pop, potentially throwing sparks, so use a fire pit screen for safety.

Why does my pine wood hiss and crackle during burning?

Pine wood tends to hiss and crackle when burning due to moisture and sap content within the wood. If the wood is properly seasoned, it will crackle less.

Can you burn pine needles?

Dried pine needles can be used as a fire starter or mixed with kindling. They should not be used as a main source of the fire, or for cooking in your fire pit.

Can you burn pine pallets?

You can burn pine pallets as long as they have not been chemically treated or painted. Look for a symbol on the side – if it HT or KD that means heat treated or kiln dried and are safe to burn. The initials MB means the pallet has been treated with methyl bromide and this is NOT safe to burn.

What is the ideal amount of pine firewood to use in a fire pit at one time?

Depending on your fire pit’s size, you can start with 3-5 pieces of pine firewood. The pine wood aromas are delightful, but remember to not overload your pit for safety and optimal burning.

What specific species of pine are better or worse for burning in a fire pit?

Ponderosa and Lodgepole Pines are good options for fire pits as they burn well when seasoned. Remember, proper firewood storage is key for pine wood seasoning, reducing creosote buildup and ensuring safer burning.


Pine wood might seem like an appealing option due to its high availability and the pleasing aroma it releases when burned, it’s not the best choice for burning in your fire pit.

Its quick burn rate, tendency to produce a significant amount of smoke and sparks, and the potential for creosote buildup, all raise concerns.

Most notably, the high sap content can result in a less efficient burn and potential safety hazards.

Opting for hardwoods such as oak or maple, which burn slower and cleaner, can provide a better, safer, and more enjoyable fire pit experience.

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