Campfires are a staple of outdoor activities, as they act a great equalizer for any lover of nature. They offer up tasty treats such as hot dogs and s’mores, they provide warmth on chilly nights, and they set the perfect scene for a good old fashioned ghost story. However, campfires have earned themselves quite a dangerous reputation over time, as they have been the cause of many a destructive forest fire. Fire garners a healthy respect in our homes. We check and double check to make sure our gas burners are off, wouldn’t even dream of leaving a candle burning unattended… so why should the rules be any different when we are in the great outdoors? Nature is home to plenty, so campfire safety should be of primary importance for any lover of the outdoors.
When choosing a spot to build your campfire, it is important to scope out your surroundings for the safest location. An ideal safe location would be far away from leaves, logs, dry grass, steep slopes, or overhanging branches, all of which could catch fire and lead to an out of control burn. Any extra wood you have collected to keep your campfire going should be stored a considerable distance away as well.
To keep your campfire from spreading, clear away all burnable materials within a 12-foot diameter of the center of the fire. Small campfires are much less likely to burn out of control than larger campfires. A large campfire may seem attractive, but in reality is much harder to build and maintain, and isn’t necessarily guaranteed to give off any more heat or roast any tastier marshmallows than a smaller, better contained campfire.
Collecting fuel for your campfire can be lots of fun, especially if you love hunting for the choosiest and biggest logs to burn. However, you should start building the foundation of your campfire with small sticks and dry twigs, and then gradually build up to larger sticks as the fire gets going. Save the best pieces for last, slowing pushing your treasured logs in to the flames towards the center of the campfire.
Lighting your campfire can be a tricky ordeal, and may take more than few tries and a number of matches. However, many an accidental fires has began from discarded matches that were still determined to burn. To avoid an accident, be sure each match is out before disposing of it. Break off the charred portion of the match and completely stamp it out, as well as dousing it with water. If you’re still not sure, hold the match until it is completely cold and then discard with a clear conscience.
Should your campfire get out of control as you are building it, it is important to have plenty of water around to douse the flames. A good sized shovel is also handy as a fire controller, to scoop dirt on the fire to quell rising flames.
Once you get your campfire going, don’t take your eyes off of it! An unattended campfire is grounds for disaster. Something as little as a gentle breeze could cause the fire to quickly spread of out control, consuming any and all burnable material within its reach in a matter of minutes.
Putting out you campfire should be a thorough process. First, completely drown the campfire with water, making sure that all sticks, coals, and embers are wet. You will need to stir the remains and add more water to soak all burning embers that could later ignite and start a fire. Thoroughly and completely make sure that all burned materials have been put out. If water is not available, use dirt and soil in the same process until the campfire is completely cooled. However, it is important not to bury your fire, as coals can smolder beneath the soil and then break out and cause a fire.
The best way to ensure that your campfire it gone for good is to feel it with your bare hands. If you get burned, you have a ways to go, and if you feel anything warm, you need to do a little more work. Safe campfire remains are completely cooled campfire remains.
Don’t be the cause of a forest fire. Practice campfire safety and enjoy the great outdoors the way nature intended.