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Flames but no fire hazard


April 2006

This outdoor fireplace, designed by Annette Miller of Sussex, is a combination cocktail table and fire pit.

Annette Miller of Sussex loves the cozy nature of an indoor fireplace, but she also enjoys an occasional fire outdoors.

But Miller wanted the outdoor fire pit to be on the comfort of her deck rather than the buggy backyard. So she took the matter into her own hands and constructed an outdoor fireplace designed like a cocktail table that offers the beauty of a real flame without any of the additional dangers of an actual fireplace.

"Itís really a safe product that can be used really anywhere ó even indoors," says Miller. "You donít need to worry about smoke and it never sparks and it makes a really nice center point on a deck."

Millerís concept, which is an actual burning fire that throws off no sparks or smoke, is made possible by using an alcohol-based gel fuel called Realflame. By placing a can of Realflame inside the base of the fireplace beneath ceramic logs, an actual fire can be enjoyed for hours on a wooden deck without the fire hazard that may accompany other patio-type fireplaces like a Chiminea.

"Iíve just always enjoyed an open flame and when I saw an alcohol burning fireplace, I just thought it would also be such a good idea to bring it outside for the deck, too," says Miller. "The neat thing about the fuel is that because itís made for fireplaces it produces a dancing yellow flame that crackles and snaps, but never sparks."

The fireplace itself rests within a teak wood table. Teak wood, Miller adds, is a high quality, durable wood, making it ideal for a fireplace table. Once she patented her product, Miller marketed the idea to Three Birds Casual LLC (, a producer of casual living products in Indiana.

Though she feels the overall product design is a fairly simple concept, Miller isnít surprised that people are catching on to the idea and adding it to their deck furniture collection. "The best thing is thereís no smell, no mess and no big time commitment because this fireplace is very convenient and easy to use. There is just something inviting and mesmerizing about a fire."