Do Your Homework
Check current fire regulations for the area. In drought conditions, campfires may be prohibited. In extreme drought conditions, even camp stoves could be forbidden. Plan accordingly. Obtain a campfire permit if needed.
Know the rules of the camping site. Are campfires permitted? Or are campfires permitted only in designated fire rings or pits?
Explain fire safety precautions to the children in your group. Teach them to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches on fire.
Use Existing Campfire Rings or Pits When Possible
Clear all flammable vegetation within a 15-foot diameter. Make sure no tree limbs or flammable objects are overhead. Pitch tents and store gear at least 15 feet upwind from grills and fires.
Build a Campfire Ring Wisely
Choose a site at least 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Choose a spot downwind from your tent and gear. Find a spot protected from wind gusts. Avoid placing your campfire in areas with steep slopes, dry grasses or decaying leaves and needles.
Use a shovel to clear the area of all debris down to the bare soil. Remove all grass, twigs, leaves and firewood within a 15-foot diameter. Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area. Make a fire ring with rocks. Keep the ring less than 4 feet in diameter.
Follow Safety Precautions
Be certain your match is out. Hold it until it is cold. Keep the campfire small and under control. Have a bucket of water and shovel nearby. Never leave the fire unattended. Wear snug fitting clothing around the campfire. Closely supervise children and pets near the campfire.
Do not allow children to run or play around the fire ring, even when the fire is not lit. Designate who can light the campfire, add wood or put out the fire. Store all matches and lighters out of reach and sight of children. Never burn pressurized containers or aerosol cans and never put glass in the fire pit.
Extinguish the Campfire Completely Before Leaving Camp
Allow the wood to burn completely to ash if possible. Do not simply bury the fire. The fire may continue to smolder and could catch plant roots on fire. Drown the campfire with water. Drown all embers, not just the red ones. Pour water until all hissing sounds stop.
Use a shovel to stir the water and dirt. Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers. Turn the wood and coals over. Wet all sides. Move the rocks and check for burning embers underneath. Check that everything is wet and cold to the touch. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave. Before leaving, double check the campfire to ensure it is completely out.
Article Written By Karen Plant
Karen Plant earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Montana, School of Journalism. Her work has been published in several newspapers, online and in the Montana Journalism Review. As a native Montanan, Plant's love for the outdoors is evident in her frequent hiking, camping and other outdoor activities.