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The Fire Pit: An Enduring Tradition

The Fire Pit: An Enduring Tradition
From as early as the Paleolithic Age, mankind has socialized around the humble fire pit. Credits: Abigail Blythe Batton

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Author: Abigail Blythe Batton

January 19, 2023- A very long time ago, between 200 and 400 thousand years, the Paleolithic man began socializing with other tribal members around a fire pit. At least that’s what the archeologists say. In two separate locations, one in Israel, and one near the Klassis River in South Africa, researchers found evidence of stone fire pits. 

These were stressful times for a community. They mainly lived in caves or rudimentary huts and spent their days hunting and gathering. This meant they were on the move once they exhausted the supply of berries and greens from their temporary patch. And, barring a successful big game hunt, they were probably hungry. Scientist speculate that the average caloric intake for a Stone Age dweller was just at or under 3000 calories a day, which is considered gluttonous by today’s standards. But that intake must be mitigated by the energetic output. Gathering required constant motion, walking, bending, and reaching. They burned nearly 2,000 calories a day in their quest for food. 

But after a long day in the forest, the makeshift neighbors gathered around the community fire pit. They cooked root vegetables, meat or shellfish over the fire and shared a communal meal before lying down on the Earth for a well-earned night’s sleep.

Today, food typically comes from a bag or box and fire pits are used recreationally. But they still hold that communal magic as a place for people to sit around its warm glow and share stories and adventures. The fire pit is a vital part of community gatherings. Consider that the fire pit market boasted a 677 million dollar market in 2022 and, according to Digital Journal, is expected to grow to over 100 million dollars by 2028.

For outdoor climates, like Florida and California, fire pits can add up to 15% added value to a home because they extend the living space into the back garden. And that’s just the money talk. What about the non-quantifiable benefits of a fire pit on the patio?

Lancaster General Health believes that fire pits “Quiet your thoughts and engage your senses to help keep you in the moment. There’s something mesmerizing about watching flames dance against an evening sky, listening to the soothing crackle of logs burning, inhaling the fragrance of wood smoke, and feeling the warmth on your skin.” But maybe, in hot climates like southern Florida, the idea of cozying up to a hot fire after a day under a hot sun may not generate enthusiasm. However, fire heat may provide health benefits beyond the endorphins produced from loving social interaction.

According to a study conducted by the University of Alabama, sitting near a fire can lower blood pressure. They suspect blood pressure goes down due to the trance-like calmness that comes from watching the flames dance. Fire pits serve another benefit by keeping mosquitos away.

But there are hazards. The US Fire Administration reports that 10 thousand homes a year are burned due to backyard fire pits or grills. These fires mainly occur due to user error or negligence so it’s important to know fire safety when considering a patio fire pit. Among the most common mistakes were wearing flammable material, using liquid accelerants and not being mindful of the direction and velocity of the wind.

Fire pits have been part of man’s journey toward civilization for most of the time humans have lived on the planet. In a culture that can be aggressive or even antagonist, gathering around the fire may be one way to equalize differences and restore community values back into the shared discourse.

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