campfire safety tips

Hot, dry weather brings the risk for wildfires, particularly when people are lighting campfires in dry, wooded areas. Although Washington State has implemented a campfire ban due to the recent dry weather, it is good to understand campfire safety in case the ban is lifted in the future. These campfire safety tips can help you to avoid a campfire accident.

Follow these Campfire Safety Tips

Pick a Safe Spot

  • Do not build a campfire in hot, dry conditions.
  • Do not build a campfire in a campground, park or other area that has a current campfire ban.
  • Build your fire in a pre-built campfire pit if available.
  • If you need to build your own fire pit, ensure that you are allowed to in that location and choose a spot that is at least fifteen feet away from tents and gear, shrubs and trees. Be mindful of low-hanging tree branches or other flammable objects overhead. Your fire pit should also be protected from wind gusts.

Dig a Fire Pit

  • Clear a 10-foot diameter area around your chosen fire site. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves, and firewood.
  • Dig a pit in the dirt, about a foot deep.
  • Circle the pit with rocks.

How to Prepare Your Campfire Pit / Prepare to Build a Campfire

  • Gather three types of wood: tinder (small twigs, dry leaves, grass or needles), kindling (sticks smaller than one inch around), and fuel (larger pieces of wood).
  • Fill the pit with small pieces of dry wood found on the ground. Never rip or cut branches from living trees.
  • Place unused firewood upwind and away from the fire.
  • Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.

How to Build a Campfire

Step 1. Loosely pile a few handfuls of tinder in the center of the fire ring/pit.

Step 2. Add kindling in one of these methods:

-Build a Tipi tent (good for cooking)

-Crisscross wood into a cross (ideal for a long-lasting campfire)

-Build a Lean to by driving a long piece of wood into the center of the fire pit and leaning smaller pieces of kindling against the longer piece (also good for cooking)

-Build a log cabin by surrounding your pile of tinder with kindling, stacking pieces at right angles. Top the “cabin” with the smallest kindling (longest lasting campfire)

Step 3.  Light the tinder with a match or lighter

Step 4.  Wait until the match is cold, and discard it in the fire

Step 5.  Add more tinder as the fire grows

Step 6.  Blow lightly at the base of the fire

Step 7.  Add kindling and firewood to keep the fire burning steadily

Safety Tips for a Lit Campfire

  • Keep the fire small and under control.
  • Supervise pets and small children around the campfire.
  • Never leave your campfire unattended.
  • Don’t burn dangerous things such as pressurized containers or aerosol cans as they could explode.
  • Never put glass in the fire pit. It does not melt away, it only heats up and shatters.
  • Never put aluminum cans in the fire pit. Aluminum does not burn; it only breaks down into smaller pieces. Inhaling aluminum dust can be harmful to your lungs.

How to Extinguish a Campfire

  • If possible, allow the wood to burn down to ash.
  • Douse the ashes and embers with water or dirt if water is not available. If using dirt be sure that you do not bury the fire as roots in the ground could catch fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.
  • Keep pouring water until the hissing sound stops.
  • Stir the ashes and embers with a shovel until everything is wet and cold to the touch.
  • Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.

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