No camping experience is complete without a campfire. In addition to allowing campers to cook food, it creates a social ambiance that’s more relaxing. However, you should follow a few basic safety tips when building a campfire.
Depending on where you are camping, there may be restrictions on building campfires. Some national parks prohibit campfires when it’s particularly dry, while others require campers to build fires in existing fire rings. Always check to see what, if any, restrictions there are on building a campfire.
If you plan on staying for a while, you may have some extra firewood — and that’s okay. However, you should store extra firewood upwind to reduce the chance of an incidental fire. If it’s stored downwind, a stray ember may ignite the firewood.
There’s really no point in building a large, roaring campfire. On the contrary, doing so only increases the risk of a wildfire. You can cook food and create warmth using just a small campfire. And a small campfire doesn’t pose the same risk of damage and injury as a larger one.
Burning your trash may seem more convenient than bagging and carrying it with you, but this practice is frowned upon for several reasons: for starters, burning trash, especially plastic, releases toxic fumes into the air. Secondly, some trash won’t burn down 100%, meaning remnants will be left behind. The bottom line is that you should only burn firewood in your campfire, not trash or debris.
Even if your campfire “looks” like it’s out, it’s a good idea to douse it with water before leaving your campsite. The ashes can store enough heat to spark a second fire for up to 24 hours. By pouring water over them, however, you’ll prevent this from happening, protecting the surrounding plant life and vegetation from a wildfire.
I know this probably sounds like common sense, but it’s still worth mentioning that you should never leave a campfire burning unsupervised. According to National Geographic, more than 100,000 wildfires occur in the United States each year, burning some 4 to 5 million acres of land. Many of these wildfires are the result of unsupervised campfires.
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