How to Extinguish a Campfire

Having a campfire is one of the most attractive features about going camping. A campfire can be utilized for cooking or for simply providing a degree of warmth on a chilly night. However, it is of the utmost importance to properly extinguish your campfire when you are finished with it.
How to Extinguish a Campfire


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1
Begin the extinguishing process at least thirty minutes before you plan to leave your campsite. This will insure that the fire is put out altogether and correctly. It will also make sure that there are no glowing embers left.
Step 2
Let all the wood in the campfire burn thoroughly so that all that remains is ashes. The ideal campfire scenario is one where only ashes are left. If this is not plausible, stir the fire with a stick. This should cut down significantly on the flames.
Step 3
Pour water over the campfire. Be alert to the fact that it has the potential to cause steam and ashes to fly into the air, which can get into your camping equipment if it is too near the site of the fire. Make sure you are not directly over the fire yourself and that the wind is not blowing towards you when water is poured on the campfire.
Step 4
Soak the ashes, coals and whatever sticks are left in the fire completely. You will hear a hissing sound as the water hits anything that is still hot. Stop pouring water over the fire when no more steam comes up from it and the hissing sounds subside.
Step 5
Stir the mix of ashes and water up with a stick or a shovel to make certain that everything has been doused with water and is wet. Allow this mixture to sit for up to ten minutes before returning to it and checking it for potential hot spots. If you discover any, pour more water on them until they are out.
Step 6
Scoop up your now extinguished fire with a utensil such as a shovel. Put it in some sort of container. It can be put into a thick plastic bag, pail or a bucket. Bring this home for disposal, or take it into the woods well off of any trails. Spread it out.


Video Instructions for Putting Out a Campfire

This video from the National Parks Service illustrates how to safely extinguish a campfire, as well as how to properly build and maintain one. 

Tips & Warnings

Make sure you have access to a shovel and a sufficient quantity of water any time you build a campfire. If you are camping in the backcountry, learn how to find water in the wilderness so you will be able to locate what you need. 
Do not bury a campfire in order to put it out. This can still allow embers to be left smoldering beneath sand or dirt, with the possibility that any roots it can touch will ignite and start a fire.
Always be sure the campfire is completely extinguished and cool before you leave. Leaving behind any hot embers could lead to tragedy. 


Campfire Safety

It's important to learn how to minimize campfire impacts. Knowing how to properly maintain and extinguish a campfire is critical to safe camping. Protect yourself, other campers, and the beauty of nature by making sure that you know how to extinguish a campfire and following appropriate campfire safety procedures every time. 

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