Building A Camp Fire

Camp Fire

It has been determined that approximately one out of every four human-caused wildfires from all around the world are the results of campfires left unattended, imporperly extinguished, or carelessly built. Millions of acres have been scarred, hundreds of thousands of homes and other buildings and machinery destroyed, millions of wild animals killed and more displaced, and thousands of people died in those wildfires. But, if we all follow a few simple rules, common sense rules, we might be able to eleminate many of these human-caused wildfires.

We are all fascinated by fire. We sit by our campfires in the evening, relaxed, daydreaming, entranced by the flames and throbing coals, without any thought of a raging wildfire. Building a campfire and enjoying the company of family or fiends make the camping trip. If you are new to camping, please take the time to learn how to properly build a campfire and how to put out a campfire so it stays out.

Building a Campfire

First, check to be sure fires are permitted where you plan to camp.
Never use gasoline to start your fire because fumes can build up, possibly causing an explosion or at least a flare up in your face.

When you build a campfire, keep it away from trees and overhanging branches, rotted stumps and logs, and be sure you clear away all dry grass and leaves with in 10 feet of your campfire to prevent the fire from spreading.

Use only dead, downed wood, and do not pull branches from living trees, even if the branches appear to be dead.
Make sure you do not stack your wood too close to the fire.

Do not build your campfire on a steep slope, because embers that pop out of the fire could roll or bounce down the slope spreading the fire over a considerable area.

Keep your campfire small, so it will be easier for you to control and still provide enough heat for warmth and cooking.

Use a shallow pit surrounded by dry, non-porous rocks to contain your fire and coals, because dry, non-porous rock are less likely to have pores filled with water, water which could rapidly expand when heated, shatter the rock, and shoot rock fragments and burning embers into your face or all over your campsite. Also, avoid using shale, which may appear dense but tends to shatter when heated.

Have plenty of water close by and a shovel, so if a campfire gets out of control, it can be smothered with dirt and extinguished with water.

Start your fire using small, dry twigs and sticks (kindling), then add a few larger pieces of wood as the fire builds, allow plenty of space for air to circulate around the larger pieces of wood. Using pitchy twigs and sticks, which burn fast and hot, for starting your fire is a good idea, but avoid using larger pieces of pitchy wood in your campfire, because they have a tendency to pop and send sparks and embers into the air.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but do not throw matches on the ground once you have lit your fire.

Never leave your campfire unattended, because even a small breeze could cause the fire to spread and grow out of control.

If you are camping in an area where there is a campfire or burning ban, campfires will be confined to fire rings in developed recreation areas, if they are allowed at all, so consider bring a camp stove for cooking.

Teach children to not pull burning sticks from the fire.

No horseplay around the fire.

And remember, pitch your tent well away from your campfire.

Putting Out a Campfire

Soak your campfire with lots of water, stir the ashes and coals, pour in more water, and stir again. If you do not have enough water to drown the coals and embers, add a mixture of soil and sand and continue stirring until all material is cool to the touch.
Move the stones that surrounded your fire to make sure the are no coals hidden by the rocks.
Make sure there are no roots smoldering, which might later ignite.
Place your bare hand on the material to make sure all of it is cool to the touch.
Never bury your coals, because the dirt covering the buried coals will hold in the heat allowing the coals to smolder and possibly break out, igniting any burnable material that blows into the fire pit.
Campfire safety takes only a little effort, but it saves lives and natural resources. And if you smoke, please throw your cigarette butts into a butt can or into your campfire, just don't throw them on the ground, even if you think they are out.


Campfire Safety Lesson
Every year campfires get out of control. Every year thousands of acres of public and private lands are destroyed. If campers would take just a few minutes to learn about campfire safety and would apply a little common sense, it would significantly reduce the number of wildfires and the amount of damage to our forests, recreation areas, and wildlife refuges, and it would also save lives. In some cases, using common sense around your campfire might save you some discomfort too.

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