The natural-gas campfire that burned on Billy and Linda Krone's deck that night had its beginnings at a trade show a couple of years ago.
Billy Krone saw it on display and was determined to figure out how to install one, even though they weren't available through retailers at the time.
"It wasn't anything more than a kit. A round, metal base, a bag of gravel, and four ceramic logs," Billy said. "It is really nothing more than a gas grill, except that the burner has bigger holes."
Upon returning home, Krone found a plumbing and heating supplier that was able to order the kit for him for about $400 from Kingsman Fireplaces (www.kingsmanind.com/ firepit.html).
He purchased a pallet of sandstone from a home-and-garden center for about $140, used half to construct the fire ring, about 3 1/2 feet to 4 feet in diameter, and the rest to decorate a small pond in the front yard.
He contacted a natural-gas supplier and negotiated a deal: In return for the delivery and installation of a 100-gallon tank (it looks like a small submarine under his deck), he would agree to purchase at least 100 gallons of propane a year.
The natural-gas supplier hooked the tank up to the campfire- burner kit, to the gas grill also located on the deck and to a small gas fireplace located just inside the sliding glass door in the eat-in kitchen.
The campfire and the grill can run off natural gas, too, Krone said. So it is possible to tap into a household's natural-gas lines to power them.
"And we haven't burned the house down yet," he said with satisfaction.
The campfire has so charmed friends that Krone has since installed another at the home of his best friend, and gets enthusiastic questions from every guest who owns a deck.
"I've started to think I might have to buy some kits and keep them in the garage for people," he said.