Campfire safety tips

Every year, millions of campers around the world snuggle up next to a campfire, roasting S’mores, sipping on hot chocolate, telling ghost stories and having a generally fabulous time.  However, if not approached cautiously, a campfire can also be a hazard.

Just last week, an 11-year-old Australian girl was badly burned in a campfire accident after a gust of wind caused a flame from a mood candle to leap, igniting her clothes and hair and leaving her with burns on 35% of her body.

If you’re an avid camper, you likely know the correct way to build and maintain a campfire.  But if you need a refresher, here are a few tips on building a campfire that will keep you warm and safe.  Feel free to add tips of your own in the comment section below.

Picking  Your Campfire Spot

Many campgrounds have designated fire pits for campfires.  If available, these are always the best options for campfires. If not, make sure you find an area that is a minimum of 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable options.  Also, make sure that there are no low-hanging branches overhead that could catch fire.

Preparing a Fire Pit

Once you’ve selected a spot for your campfire, clear a 10-foot diamater area and remove grass, twigs, leaves or other wood.  Then, dig a pit in the dirt, about a foot deep.  Lastly, circle the pit with rocks.

Now, you’re ready to prepare your pit.  Fill it with small pieces of dry wood, then place your unused firewood upwind and away from the fire–make sure to keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby in case of an emergency.

Building the Fire

Gather three types of wood: tinder, which consists of small twigs, dry leaves and pine needles, kindling, which are sticks smaller than on inch, and fuel (large pieces of wood).  Pile up a couple of handfuls of tinder in the center of the fire ring and add kindling.

Then, ignite the tinder with either a match or a lighter and discard the match in the fire. You’ll want to add more tinder as the fire grows, while blowing lightly at the fire’s base to slowly increase the flames.

Maintaining your Campfire

Once you have started your fire, maintain it by consistently adding large pieces of dry food.  Make sure that children and pets are supervised if they are close to the fire–and never leave your fire unattended.

Extinguishing Your Campfire

When you’re ready to put your fire out, take the following actions.  First, if possible, let the wood burn down to ash.  Then, pour water over the entire fire, drowning all the embers.  A good rule of thumb is to pour water until the hissing stops.

Then, stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel and scrape the sticks and logs remaining to remove any last embers.  When everything is wet and cold to the touch, you’ve successfully extinguished your campfire.

Lastly, remember to never burn dangerous items, such as: aerosol cans, pressurized containers, glass or aluminum cans.

Follow these rules and you’ll have a warm fire and stay safe!

Have more campfire tips?  Let us know in the comment section below.

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16 Comments

  1. Jeff
    Posted December 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    Using the same metal that is in the bottom of our zero clearance fireplace a friend makes fire rings and we usually have one with us just in case there isn’t a designated one. We also have a grate that fits over it perfectly. if perchance we don’t have it with us and need to build a ring, we use the stones as suggested but use smaller stones to fill in any large gaps. We usually keep extra water on hand to wet the exterior of the ring and keep it damp (just a precaution) as we seldom have a shovel with us. 🙂

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