It’s January and it’s cold outside (somewhere – maybe not so much here in Tucson). Here are some safety tips for building a fire when out camping so that you can keep warm, cook your food, dry out your clothes, and make s’mores, all in a safe way:
Fire safety involves many aspects, including preparing the site, maintaining the fire, and making sure the fire is completely extinguished.
PREPARING THE SITE:
It is best to have a fire in an established fire ring. This minimizes negative impacts to the environment and makes the fire easier to contain and monitor. Some further guidelines for preparing the site for your fire include:
Make sure that your fire is at least 15 feet away from any trees or brush;
Make sure your tents and gear are downwind from the fire;
Make sure the ground is clear of anything flammable for at least five feet around the fire;
Make sure there are no branches overhanging the fire;
Have a plan (and materials) to extinguish the fire if it gets out of hand; and
Determine if there are any fire restrictions for the area, and abide by them.
MAINTAINING THE FIRE:
Once your fire is going, you should maintain it safely. Every year, thousands of acres are burned by wildfires, many started by campers being careless with fire. Fires impact the forests, the animals that live there, and people that visit, and can spread to populated areas, burning houses as has occurred recently in California. It is imperative that we be safe with our fires. Some things we can do include:
Keeping other activities away from the fire;
No horsing around near the fire;
Keep the fire in the fire ring, no playing with burning sticks taken out of the fire;
Keep the fire to a manageable size, no bigger than necessary; and
Ensure that someone is always assigned to monitor the fire.
MAKING SURE THE FIRE IS EXTINGUISHED:
Before you leave your campsite, ensure that your fire is completely extinguished. This can be accomplished as follows:
Start extinguishing the fire at least a half-an-hour before you intend to leave;
Sprinkle water on the fire, observing where the hot spots are;
Be sure you drown all coals, not just the red ones, stirring the ashes with a shovel or stick to make sure that all coals are extinguished; and
Let the fire sit for ten minutes, then stir it again, feeling for any warm spots – repeat dousing the fire as necessary.
Have fun camping this winter, and remember to be safe with your fire.