Lisa Legendre of Turner built a ring-of-stones-style fire pit for her frequent fires. Submitted photo

Noah Marquis was 17 years old and he wanted a good old-fashioned fire pit to sit around with his friends. 

Dave Marquis, the boy’s father, did what all good dads should do in a scenario like this one: He told the kid to go out and build that fire pit with his own two hands. 

“Noah wanted a fire pit for his birthday,” Dave explains. “With COVID, he wanted to gather outside with his friends for graduation last year. So we went and bought a whole package from Gagne and Son. I gave him the instructions, a couple of shovels, gave him the day off from work and told him to build it. As a contractor, I wanted to see him apply the knowledge he built up over the years working part-time for me.” 

Building a fire pit isn’t rocket science, exactly, but it does demand planning and know-how. Since Noah had been working part time for his father, and since he had building his own computers since the age of 12, Dave had faith the boy could pull it off. 

“I trusted he could do the fire pit correctly as he already had the practical skills to do it right,” he says. “I told him how to do the groundwork, then gave him a set of plans Gagne and Sons provided with the kit. Then I went to work — came home to find it perfectly constructed. He did a great job.” 

Dave Marquis’ fire pit was built by his son in the family’s backyard in Lewiston. Submitted photo

Now, Dave says, the new fire pit in the backyard has become a part of the Marquis family lifestyle. 


That’s the thing about fire pits — and about gatherings around fire in general. It’s an ancient concept, as old as mankind itself. There was a time when most life-changing decisions were made by a group of people huddled around a fire. 

Fire, like a mother, provides warmth, protection and nourishment. 

“I grew up in a farmhouse with wood stoves as the source of heat,” says Lin Prescott, of Auburn, “and find that wood-burning warmth penetrates the bones and provides a comfort to the soul that nothing else can. There is an inner knowledge that the fire will drive away the bogeymen, werewolves, rabid wildcats and even the mosquitoes. A night of sleep after hanging out around a fire pit is a sound sleep indeed.”

Ah, but it’s not always that simple. 


The season of fire pits is upon us indeed, and people across the region are preparing for those backyard celebrations and caucuses. Many build their own pits, and in a variety of inventive ways. Others buy fancy pits at a chain store, while a few have them custom made down to the finest details. 


With warm weather coming, backyards everywhere will soon be dotted with the glow of flames and the air will be redolent with the scent of wood smoke. 

A little TOO redolent, in some cases. 

“We do get our fair share of calls and complaints regarding fire pits,” says Paul Ouellette, fire inspector at the Lewiston Fire Department. “Complaints usually stem from smoke or smell. The smoke complaints are mostly from low hanging smoke going into peoples houses because of the weather — smoke won’t rise on humid days and lingers low on windy days. The smell complaints most come from the stuff people burn that is not permitted.” 

In most areas, fire pits are legal for campfires only, Ouellette says. Trouble arises when people start throwing random materials into the blaze, either to keep the fire going or to rid themselves of debris. 

“You can not burn any leaves, grass, trash, construction debris, or things that the city trash picks up,” Ouellette says. 

Many of the people we heard from say they simply clear things with their neighbors before commencing to burn in the backyard.


Of course, the reaction that a respectful fire pit lover gets depends on the type of neighbors he or she has. 

“I am out in Sabattus,” says Donna Finley. “I have been damn lucky with the neighbors. This past summer we had a fire going for 12 hours and didn’t call it quits until 3 a.m. The music was loud as we were.” 

For Finley, like so many others, gatherings around the fire are among the most cherished of summer rites. She even waxes a bit poetic about it. 

“Fires are a must!” she says. “We have fires on either Friday or Saturday nights. It is such a great time, like being at the ocean. A fire is felt in the soul of fire lovers. True fire lovers will hold a fire any day they can. I have had a fire with my two Chihuahuas in the middle of the week — threw on a grate and cooked us up a bunch of meat.” 

Incidentally, Finley prefers to use the drum from an old washing machine to burn in. The pre-existing holes in the drums, she says, allows the perfect flow of air to keep the flames fed. 

Wendy Cavers, of Litchfield, fashioned a roaring fire pit out of an old washing machine tub. Submitted photo

Want to learn how to make one? Head to YouTube. Or you could just let Wendy Cavers, of Litchfield, talk you through it. 


“It’s simple really,” she says. “First, go to the junk yard and find an old washing machine. Bring a few tools like a wrench or ratchet set with you. The older the better because the steel tubs were made thicker and heavier back in the day. Second, get that wash tub extracted from the machine. Third, put that wash tub in your vehicle. Make sure to leave the rest of that machine just where you found it: in the junk yard. 

“Lastly,” Cavers says, “bring that baby home, set her up on a few bricks and fire it up. All the small holes around the side of the tub provide oxygen to the fire and a very interesting glowing pattern at night. You can dress it up if you want to create a base with bricks or pavers. This old wash tub fire pit led to years of free entertainment.” 


In Litchfield, Jessie Chartier’s “redneck fire pit” is complete with beverages on ice. Submitted photo

Among other things, we have seen DIY fire pits built out of old toilets, tire rims, beer kegs, shopping carts, wheel barrows and flower pots. 

Lisa Legendre, of Turner, got by with an old tire rim for a fire pit, then used a steel pit with a mesh cover bought cheap from Tractor Supply. That one is gone now, so Lisa has been working on a simple ring of stones with a bulked up backstop to get her through the summer.

By and large, people are particular about where and how they build their fires because those fires have become a crucial component of their day-to-day pursuit of happiness. 


“I must have a fire pit always,” says Prescott. “Everywhere I have lived or camped, some kind of fire outside is a must. Some have been elaborately dug into banks with beautiful rocks and steps, others just some cement blocks and a few old steel grates I have found, and others were store-bought little things that should be embarrassed to have that label. A pile of rocks have had to make do at times, something to poke the fire and something to pour water on it at the end of its run time. 

“Lots of problems of the world have been solved around a fire pit,” she says, “with both solitary reflection or gainful conversation over wine coolers and brewskies. A stick and some marshmallows and a few red hot dogs bring back family trips to a local lake shore for some well needed fun.” 

In Minot, Trevor and Cassidy Brown have found fire pits to be in such high demand, they’ve managed to build a business around them. 

At Browns Precision Metal Works, they build hexagon fire pits in three different sizes, as well as other designs in a choice of size. 

Cassidy Brown of Minot uses a custom fire pit manufactured conveniently at Brown’s Precision Metal Works in Minot. Submitted photo

“All of our pits are fully customizable and our customers typically pick and choose what they would like on their pit,” says Cassidy Brown. “We then coat it in a high-temp flat-black paint. We build our pits using 3/16” steel to ensure they last a long time with no warping from the heat.” 

Of course, if you’re happy with a run-of-the mill fire pit, with no special distinction, you can find one just about anywhere. Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, even most of the big lot stores will have something you can use. 


There are squat little fire pits that look like witch’s cauldrons. There are table-style pits, classic ring pits built out of pavers, dome-shaped pits, and pits that stand up tall. There are wood burning pits and gas powered pits, and prices range from around $89 all the way up into the area of $500, depending on what you want. 


While most people are celebrating the bacchanalian pleasures of backyard fire season, others have concerns, and they don’t all have to do with stinky smoke from the neighbor’s yard. 

“My husband is a neonatal and pediatric surgeon,” says Jennifer Kelly, of Standish but now living in Vermont, “and I can tell you that MANY of his trauma calls over the summer are result of children falling into fire pits. Watch ya kids!” 

Some worry about all-night noise and noxious air pollution brought about by the burning of inappropriate matter. 

Bill Lepack constructed his own fire pit in the backyard of his Livermore home. Submitted photo

Debbie Gwen Riley, of South Paris, says that when she lived in Auburn, she was one of those who would use the fire pit to dispose of brush, broken furniture and anything that needed to be gone in a hurry. 


That worked fine until some new neighbors moved nearby and suddenly, Riley was getting visits and stern warnings from the fire department.

“My mother would have been mortified to see my name in the court log,” she says. 

She moved out to the country and graduated to burning bigger stuff, including mattresses, TV stands . . . you name it. If Riley didn’t need it, into the fire it went — who had time to head to the dump every five minutes? 

With a little help, Riley eventually learned the error of her ways. 

“I recently married a retired firefighter,” she says, “so I don’t get away with burning crazy (stuff) anymore. But he has a pass to the Buckfield dump and a truck, so it’s all good.” 

Most people know how to go about properly handling a fire pit, which includes checking with your neighbors first. For those who don’t, fire experts offer the usual tips: Keep the fire safe from the home or other structures you don’t want to burn down; use a screen to keep embers and sparks from blowing out; keep kids a safe distance from the fire pit at all times; make sure the fire is out before you turn in for the night; and never — no, not EVER — use accelerants to start your fire or to make it bigger. 

We’ve all read the news stories about people who try to get their fire going by dumping gasoline, lighter fluid or other flammable liquids into the flames. Don’t be that guy. 

There’s one more rule, unspoken yet largely accepted as gospel truth when it comes to backyard gatherings around the roaring fire. 

“What happens by the fire pit,” says Shari K. Gosselin, of Lewiston, “stays in the backyard.”

Shari Gosselin, of Lewiston, says “What happens by the fire pit stays in the backyard.” Submitted photo

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