Mention camping and there are probably three things that spring to a person’s mind; a tent, a sleeping bag, and a campfire. Cavemen, cowboys, and campers have all gathered around campfires through the ages to tell stories, cook food and stay warm. Being outdoors at night is depicted almost universally by the iconic symbol of a campfire.
Sadly, every year there are wildfires, personal property damages, and even death because someone was careless in building a campfire. Here are some tips to help you avoid the dangers of campfires.
If you’re hiking overnight or camping in a National Forest or campground, the Rangers will be able to tell you the local fire conditions, or they may be posted conspicuously in the area. Some locales will even require a permit if you plan to build a campfire. Always check local conditions and regulations.
Again, most National Parks or campgrounds will have an enclosed fire pit/ring already on each campsite. If you are camping in extremely primitive areas, you’ll want to clear a circular area of at least 8 to 10 feet in diameter of all grass, leaves, and brush, then make an inner circle of perhaps 3 feet across and dig down into the soil about 3 to 4 inches in a level area (fire travels quickly uphill) where there are no overhanging branches, moss, grass, etc. You’ll also want to be sure and place your fire pit/ring a safe distance from your tent and/or sleeping bag, as sparks can fly up and fall into these, igniting them if they are not flame retardant. Some campers like to use rocks or stones stacked in a ring around the pit to further contain the fire.
This will depend on the number of people employing the fire, but it is best to keep it as small as possible for the number of people around it. The smaller the fire, the easier it is to control and the smaller amount of firewood you’ll use, which will leave some for other campers in the future.
Never pull branches off of trees, even if they appear to be dead. Use only dead branches you find on the ground or dry wood you have brought along or purchased (some campgrounds sell firewood) to avoid an excess of smoke that can result from the use of live branches or wet wood. NOTE: Some parks or campgrounds forbid the gathering of fallen branches in order to support the local ecosystem, so you may need to bring or buy firewood.
Never leave a campfire unattended by an adult
Keep water and a shovel nearby
Countless campers have tripped over fire rings, rocks or their own feet and fallen into campfires, resulting in serious injuries and/or lifelong disabilities. Especially watch children if they are camping with you.
Pour water in the fire, use the shovel or a stick to stir the embers, dousing any still glowing pieces of wood. Move stones, if you used them, to be sure no hot embers are hiding beneath them. After 30 to 45 minutes, place your hands near the former fire to see if you feel any warmth. If you do, apply sufficient water to completely soak the remaining wood and check again for burning embers. Cover completely with dirt.
A campfire will add to the wonderful experience of being outdoors. Following these simple steps will help you to avoid or minimize the danger of campfires. If this is the first time you’re having an outdoor activity then please don’t forget to check-out this list of Top ten life-saving gears you must have.