Fires and camping are as inseparable as coffee and cream. Camping just isn’t camping without a campfire. Whether roasting marshmallows or hotdogs, keeping warm from a crisp evening’s chill or to light our surroundings, a campfire provides that one of a kind camping experience. Today’s campfires are fueled by wood, propane and white gas. Abide by the necessary safety precautions and a campfire can be enjoyed by all. But ignoring or failing to observe the right precautions can be extremely dangerous. Follow these campfire safety tips to keep you and your fellow campers safe when enjoying the outdoors.
Before you build a fire, you should know all the rules regarding campfires at your campsite. In certain regions campfires are only allowed in designated areas, and you should never bring your own firewood. Fires may be prohibited due to dry or unfavorable conditions. Warnings from government agencies are in place for good reason and should be heeded. Don’t build a fire if it’s dry or windy. Many campsites have fire rings available. If one is not available, you should choose a site for your campfire that’s a safe distance away from grass, trees and tents. Clear ground litter, twigs, leaves and any organic material down to bare soil at least 10 feet around your campfire. If possible, encircle the campfire pit with rocks. Be sure to your site is upwind from the sleeping area to prevent any sparks or embers from catching tents or sleeping bags on fire.
When it comes to starting your campfire, avoid using gasoline or other petroleum-based products which are highly explosive. Build your fire in stages first with small pieces of kindling, then piling small pieces of wood on top of the kindling and then by adding larger pieces of wood. Keep your fire size manageable, with a pail of sand or water close by, and a shovel in case you need to control or extinguish the fire. Extra firewood should be kept away from the flames, stowed upwind from the fire. As long as the campfire is burning, someone should attend it, keeping a watchful eye for any flying sparks or embers that might land on anything flammable and any sudden gusts of wind that can spread a fire. Extinguish the fire if conditions become unsafe, if you have to leave the campsite and before you go to bed. To properly extinguish a campfire it must be drowned with water. You must be sure that all embers, coals and wood pieces are wet, even soaked. Be sure to use a shovel to turn all rocks and logs and douse any hot coals beneath them. Any burning material should be extinguished and cooled.
Campfires are not the only source of many forest fires. When using stoves, lanterns and heaters, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions. Be sure all connections are tight. To check for any leaks, put soapy water on connections. If the soapy water bubbles, gas is seeping out and the connection will need to be repaired. Before using stoves, lanterns or heaters, replenish the fuel supply, using a funnel to avoid spilling liquid fuels. Refuel only when the stove, lantern or heater is cool, a safe distance from campfires, grills and open flame and always outside and away from tents and campers. Keep flammable liquids and fuel cylinders a safe distance from your tent or camper. Fuel lanterns and stoves should never be used inside a tent. Battery operated lights and lanterns are a much safer option. Only use appliances in open areas away from flammable materials. Any cooking should be done outside, with fire extinguishers well within reach.
Safe campfires, stoves, lanterns and heaters are always attended with campers following government and manufacturer suggestions. Keep your fires small and manageable with fire extinguishers, a bucket of sand or water and shovel nearby.