campfireWhether you are enjoying the warmth of a small fire in the backyard or out in the woods cooking dinner , it is important to have basic knowledge of campfire safety. Campfires can provide us with warmth, songs and entertainment, light, warm food, and psychological comfort. However, the benefits don’t outweigh the cost if something goes wrong. A little bit of knowledge can go a long way.

Important Things to Know Before you build a Campfire:

Checking with local authorities is any easy way to make sure you are up to date with open air fire regulations. Additionally. it is important to check on fire regulations in places you aren’t familiar with. Do your best to have a reasonable knowledge of potentially dangerous weather conditions. Even in calm weather, different locations can have unique weather patterns. Building a fire in heavy wind is dangerous and creates serious potential for starting wildfires. It is important to be prepared to put your fire out quickly, if Mother Nature makes an impulse decision to get gusty.

Fireplace Safety

Choosing where to build your fire is quite possibly the most important decision you will make when setting up a campsite. If your site already has a structure made of stone or cement, or there’s an established fire pit, you can bet that it is the safest (and most convenient) spot to build your fire. It’s likely that fires are ONLY allowed in these designated, established spots. If you aren’t staying in a place with well-defined fireplaces, the next best option is to build your fire on a bare rock face. Large exposed rocks tend to have less flammable material around them, eliminating the chance of downward spread (root fires), and make it easy to spread out coals when it is time for the fire to be extinguished. Sandy areas are also convenient locations for fire building. Like rock, sand usually has less flammable material around it and also allows for easy spreading when it is time to extinguish your fire. In sufficient quantity, sand also has the added benefit of being a good material for extinguishing and smothering fires. If you happen to be looking at nothing but grassy field or forest undergrowth, you still have a few fireplace options. Your best bet in this situation is probably a fire pit. Pits keep fires contained by eliminating all of the combustible material near the fire and instead replacing it with walls of earth. While fire pits do have the added benefit of being better shielded from wind, it is important to be wary of roots when digging pits. Fires can easily ignite tree roots. These fires can spread along underground root paths and result in large fires erupting days after the original fire was started and probably extinguished. Fire Rings can be built to contain fire. While they are not a foolproof method, they can sufficiently contain fires as long as they are well maintained. It is best to try and clear undergrowth and grass away from the ring as best as possible. Super heated rocks can dry out most of the plant life around the outside perimeter of the ring, making it exceedingly easy for sparks to ignite flammable material close by. Rings also do little to prevent root fires and, if not built properly, will do little to protect from wildfires. Whatever method of fireplace construction you choose, be sure to build away from flammable hazards. A well-constructed fireplace is useless if you have built it right next to meltable tents, combustible wood piles, or big tanks of things that go boom when sparks land on them.

Preparation and Surroundings:

Before you light your fire, make sure you have plenty of water and a shovel on hand, in case of emergency. Keep the area around your fire clear. Do your best to clear any flammable materials within a 6-10 foot radius of your fireplace. Make sure that your wood pile is stored upwind and is sufficiently supplied to keep your fire burning for the desired amount of time. It is never a good idea to leave a fire unattended in order to go hunting for more fuel.

Extinguishing your fire

While being able to light a fire is important it is even more important that you are ready and able to put one out. When it comes to safely extinguishing your fire, there is no substitute for water. Putting your fire out with water will reduce the temperature to 50°C (122°F) within 10 minutes. When compared to a campfire that is left to burn itself out or put out with sand, which can still be as warm as 100°C (212°F) eight hours later, it is hardly a comparison worth making. Douse your coals until they are no longer glowing. You can use a stick to stir up the ashes and further reduce the heat. A good test for sufficiently reduced heat is to place a green leaf on the ashes. If the leaf curls or browns the fire is still too hot!