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​It's not a true Alberta summer without s'mores by the fire. If you're thinking of heating things up with an outdoor fire pit, keep the environment in mind when choosing between wood burning or natural gas.

Fire pit smoke

Some people believe that, because wood smoke is a natural substance, it's safe for you and your family to be around – but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Wood smoke contains harmful chemicals and gases including carbon monoxide, nitrogen-oxides, volatile organic compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, that can have serious health effects. Breathing in wood smoke can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation and in extreme cases, prolonged exposure to wood smoke can cause chronic lung disease and cancer. Burning natural gas, on the other hand, doesn't produce harmful smoke or ash.

Greenhouse gases

Not only does wood smoke contain gases that are harmful to humans, it also contains soot, fine particles and smog-causing nitrogen oxides that are damaging to the environment. Natural gas burns cleaner than wood and most fossil fuels, which means it emits less greenhouse gases into the environment.

Fire hazards

With a natural gas fire pit, there's less risk of an accidental fire as the flames can easily be turned off with the flick of a switch. If not properly tended to or used irresponsibly, wood fire pits can get out of hand and can be tricky to put out. Wood fire pits also create airborne embers that can ignite dry grass, leaves and even tree branches.

So, what's the verdict?

To enjoy a safe and eco-friendly fire outdoors, a natural gas fire pit is the way to go. Available in a range of prices, sizes and styles, you'll be sure to find one that fits in your budget and your backyard.

Sources: Government of Canada, Scientific American, Health Canada, The Canadian Lung Association

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About fair competition

All customers are free to purchase natural gas services from the default supply provider or from a retailer of their choice and to purchase electricity services from the regulated rate provider or from a retailer of their choice. The delivery of natural gas and electricity to you is not affected by your choice. If you change who you purchase natural gas services or electricity services from, you will continue receiving natural gas and electricity from the distribution company in your service area. For a current list of retailers you may choose from, visit ucahelps.alberta.ca or call 310-4822 (toll free in Alberta). Some offers, in whole or in part, may not be available in gas co-ops, municipally owned utilities, and some Rural Electrification Associations.