Building a campfire may be safely undertaken if you practice proper some burning techniques and safety measures to protect yourself.
Campfires are a staple for camping trips. In addition to serving a functional purpose, campfires create a bond between you and those who sit around it with you.
But if mishandled, campfires can also be very dangerous. Campfires are the nation’s leading cause of children’s camping injuries and the primary catalyst for damaging forest fires.
- Check the weather forecast. Weather fluctuations, such as sudden gusts of wind, could make debris burning spark a wildfire. Even a small amount of wind can blow burning debris or sparks onto a flammable surface and spread.
- Use only the designated rings or pits to build your fire. (Most parks have campfire pits ready and waiting for you.) These pits should be on gravel or dirt, never grass. Clear the area of any dry leaves and sticks and make sure that tents, campers, power lines, overhanging limbs, buildings, automobiles, equipment, rotten stumps, shrubs, dry leaves, etc. are placed at a considerable distance from the fire. If there is no designated fire ring, dig a small pit away from overhanging branches. Circle the pit with rocks. Then clear a five-foot area around the pit down to the soil.
- Stack extra wood upwind and away from the fire.
- Start building your fire with small sticks and twigs and gradually work your way up to the larger pieces of wood. When placing the large pieces of wood on the fire, point them inwards and use another piece of wood to shift them to their desired spot into the flames.
- Never use flammable liquids to ignite or keep your fire burning. Avoid the use flammable liquids such as (but not limited to) gasoline, lighter fluid, and diesel fuel. This will greatly limit the chances of serious accidents and injuries. After lighting the fire do not discard the match until it is cold. Douse it with water to be sure.
- Keep your campfire small and contained. A suggested size would be a 2’ x 2’ x 2’. Campfires this size are less likely to get out of hand.
- Never leave a campfire unattended. Even the smallest breeze can quickly cause the fire to spread.
- Never allow children and pets to play or stand too close to the fire and do not leave them unsupervised. Teach kids how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire.
- Keep a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergencies and make sure everyone knows how to use them. Have a shovel for throwing sand on the fire if it gets out of control.
- When extinguishing the fire, make sure to drown the fire completely with water. Coals that are not cooled or extinguished can remain hot and capable of inflicting burns for 24 hours. Do not bury them. Instead, pour water and stir the ashes and embers until it is clear that they have all been cooled.
Practicing proper building techniques and safety measures can protect you, your loved ones and the forests. Following these tips will help ensure that your camping experience is both fun and safe.