family out camping with campfire

5 Campfire Safety Tips

Summertime means getting into the woods and going camping. There’s nothing much like waking up in a tent smelling like a campfire! While camping trips are super fun and a great way to spend time with friends and family, you still need to do it safely, especially when it comes to the campfire.

According to the National Park Service (NPS), 85% of all forest fires in the United States are started by campfires that are either left unattended, improperly extinguished, or not kept contained. Here are some campfire safety tips so you don’t contribute to the deadly statistic.

1. Check Regulations

The first step is to make sure that fires are allowed in the first place. The National Weather Service will rank fire danger depending on weather conditions and if there is a red flag warning, that means there are very warm temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds.
Some areas will take it even further and put a full fire ban if conditions are that hazardous. If there is a fire ban, that means no fires, using grills, setting off fireworks, or shooting a gun.

However, you should monitor weather conditions on your own and practice common sense. Even if there isn’t a fire ban, pay attention to the weather. If it is super windy and hot once you get to your campsite, do not start a fire. You can participate in other camping activities during your trip and perhaps your decision will save the forest, the animals, and potentially people who live in it or nearby.

2. Choose a Smart Spot

If a campsite has a fire ring or metal container, this is obviously the safest place to have a fire. If you are backpacking or camping in a more remote location, digging a fire pit about a foot deep and lining it with rocks is a great way to make your own fire ring. 

Make sure to choose a spot that is cleared of brush, dry leaves, and not underneath any trees with low-hanging branches that can catch fire. Move any other flammable materials like the tent and especially stove fuel at least five feet away from the flames or flying embers. It’s also a good idea to build a fire upwind of a lake or river so if embers do float off they land in the water.

3. Build a Fire Right

By using the right materials, and the right amount, your fire will stay burning small and contained which makes it safer and also perfect for roasting marshmallows!

Start by lighting your tinder which can be pine needles, small twigs, and dry leaves and grass. Add more and more tinder once the flames are lit. Blowing at the base of your tinder pile will help the flames catch since fire loves oxygen.

Next, add kindling which is smaller sticks or splinters off of logs. This will help your fire get stronger.

Finally, add your fire’s fuel, which can be made up of big logs, thick sticks, or larger pieces of wood. Once your fire is going, you can add more fuel, paper plates, or other paper products. Be careful not to burn poison oak or ivy because breathing in the smoke can irritate the lungs. Also, avoid burning plastic as it smells and releases toxins into the air.

Are you proud of building a great, safe campfire? Good, because now you can’t leave it under any circumstances. Don’t leave to go on a hike. Don’t leave it to go on a bike ride. Don’t leave it to go for a swim. Don’t leave to look for more firewood. Don’t leave it to investigate the crackling sticks in the woods. Don’t leave it to go to bed. Unless someone is there making sure the fire stays contained and to stamp out any escaping embers, never leave a fire unattended.

4. Put the Fire out…COMPLETELY

Once you are done with the scary stories and campfire songs at night, or drinking your coffee around the morning fire, make sure you put the fire out. Throwing the rest of your drink over the flames and calling it good will not cut it!

To put out a fire, you’ll need a lot of water. Once the flames are out, you’ll need to throw dirt or sand on it and mix that wet dirt around, completely extinguishing coals and embers. To be extra safe, you should feel the dirt to see if it’s hot at all. If you still feel heat, you will need to add more water and continue to stir.

A fire has a frightening way of lighting itself if there is any heat source left over from coals paired with strong wind.

5. Enjoy Your Fire Responsibly!

Once your fire is burning safely, sit back and relax! Watching the flames dance against a backdrop of indigo sky dotted with millions of stars is an incredible, humbling experience. Paired with the lingering taste of a perfectly-roasted s’more makes for a perfect night and happy campers!

Ember Defense

We know fire and how fast it can get out of control. The best way to prevent wildfires is by practicing fire safety. However, when fires do happen, it’s good to know your home has the best protections like fire-safe vents, gutter guards to deter debris build-up, and roof sprinklers.

Contact us today to see how we can help your home protect itself from fire.