Ah, the sweet sound of a crackling fire, the gentle orange glow and the woodsy smell of smoke. There’s nothing quite like a campfire to make your adventure complete. The following tips will help keep you safe and cozy.
Know the Rules
Though it may be tempting to have a campfire where one is not permitted, camping rules and regulations were created for one reason – to keep you safe. Call ahead to make sure that campfires will be permitted where you want to stay. If not, and having a campfire is important to you, you might want to find another park.
Keep in mind that fire rules can change on a daily basis depending on weather conditions. If a park posts “No open fires due to dry or windy conditions,” always be sure to comply for the safety of all.
Use Designated Fire Pits
If campfires are permitted, use the area that has been designated. These areas were chosen for a good reason (a good wind break, good brush clearance, etc.). If there is not a formal fire area, make sure that your fire ring is surrounded by a circle of rocks, large enough to keep wood and kindling contained and not blowing or tumbling over the sides.
Clear Area of All Debris
Make sure there are no extraneous twigs, leaves, paper products or other flammables within several feet of your campfire. And don’t forget to look up. Overhanging branches should be avoided.
Use the Right Wood
Different kinds of wood are needed to make a great campfire. Start by gathering a supply of all three: Tinder, or small twigs, wood shavings, dry leaves or grass that will ignite easily, will help get your fire going. (Never use flammable liquids to start a fire!) Kindling, or small sticks one inch in diameter or less, go on next. Make sure to let your kindling get burning well before you add on the last kind of wood. The last kind? Your Fuel, or larger pieces of dry wood that burn for longer periods of time.
Be sure to stack your wood in separate piles, well away from the fire area. Never pull branches off trees or cut living vegetation.
Campfires can easily get away from you. Keep your campfire well within the borders of the pit, and keep it small to avoid sparking. You can always snuggle up to the fire (or each other) to keep warm.
Be Ready to Put it Out
Be sure to have a bucket of water and a shovel or a fire extinguisher nearby.
Enjoy your campfire, but be safe. Make sure an adult is present at all times, and discourage running or horse playing near a campfire.
Douse, Dreg and Dig
Before leaving camp, make sure that your campfire is completely out-and that means doing more than just dousing it with water once or twice. Douse with water, dreg up the fire to uncover any hot spots and douse again. Finish up by turning over the fire debris to make sure everything is cold, and never put fire ash into trash receptacles. Check out the Smokey the Bear website, www.smokeybear.com, for more fire prevention tips.
With a few precautions, you can ensure that your campfire experience brings you wonderful memories of toasted marshmallows and smiling faces.