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Campfire and Fire Safety

A night around the fire is always special. We have been gathering around flickering flame for a LONG time. That is why people feel a certain way when the fire is crackling in the fireplace or at the campsite.

In this age of technological distraction, fire has a unique way of still bringing us together. It pulls the kids off the video games and brings them outside.

However, when the fire is present there are risks and you have to be careful of them. We are going to look at a number of fire safety tips for staying safe around the campfire or the fire pit.

Group of multiracial people sitting around campfire

Know the Local Laws

Gathering around outdoor fire pits is something that Americans do on a nightly basis. All over the nation localities have varying burning laws based on the environment and the conditions of that time of year. Sometimes a no-burn order is in place and you should know about it.

These no-burn orders are used to prevent the spread of fire through winds and dry periods or periods of drought where everything becomes tinder and massive fires can break out with just a single ember floating on the wind.

To ensure fire safety, know your local burn laws before starting any fire.

Fire Location and Placement

Where do you light your fires? Do you build them right next to that old pile of building materials in your yard? How about right next to the house?

Finding a good location to make a fire is so important. Consider what is around you and what is above you when you are choosing a location for a fire pit. Setting up your fire pit or campfire in a well-thought-out location can make all the difference.

Large green backyard with beautiful landscape and fire pit.

Inspecting a Fire Pit

Whether you are using a wood-burning fire pit or a propane one, you should give the unit a thorough inspection. This will not only ensure fire safety, but if you have a bunch of wet or burnt-up materials leftover in your fire pit it could make starting the next fire much tougher.

Things like accelerants might also be present in your fire pit. It is important that you look out for lighter fluid and other things like that. I am not a proponent of using these things in your fire pit but you must still keep an eye out for them.

If you are running a propane fire pit now is a good time to turn the propane on or check the tanks to make sure they are not leaking. This is all valuable fire prep.

Clear Debris

What is around the fire ring or propane pit can be dangerous to your entire campsite. If you start a fire and it is surrounded by dry leaves, dry wood, or other combustible materials, that fire could spread rapidly.

Dry leaves go up in a hurry. In places like California, this is how massive wildfires swallow up entire communities, they start just like this.

Sit Downwind

Knowing the wind can keep you safe, the area safe, and also make the fire all the more enjoyable. If you set your campsite downwind from the fire then you will not get smoked out.

Have you ever been in that chair around the fire and the wind just keeps hitting you in the face? Well, you are sitting upwind.

Sitting and setting up camp downwind from the fire is safer. Smoke inhalation is not just discomfort but it is also dangerous.

Man practicing fire safety by extinguishing fire with a bucket of water

Be Prepared to Extinguish

Whether you have a bucket of water next to you or a fire extinguisher, you need a way to quickly extinguish that fire. If something were to go wrong and the fire were to spread or if someone or something were to fall into the fire, being able to extinguish those flames fast is essential.

Water is a great fire extinguisher but it can be limited in camping adventures. A couple of shovelfuls of dirt on the other hand can smother a fire quickly and you have a limitless supply at your feet.

Keep Your Distance

Clearing debris is about making sure there is plenty of room around your fire. Keeping gear and tents far from the fire is important. Of course, you gotta keep people away from the fire, too!

Cooking on stakes, and roasting marshmallows can all put people close to the fire. You have to be careful whenever you or someone else is close to the fire. Sometimes the people close to the fire have had “too good a night” and they can get a little careless.

If you keep your distance then you cannot get burned.

Stay Attentive to Ensure Fire Safety

Keeping your distance from the fire and leaving it without a watchful eye are two different things. There are a number of reasons to stay attentive to the fire. Even beyond safety. Nothing is worse than when you step away from the fire and return to see it has gone out. This can be easily avoided.

The most dangerous time is at night. As the sun draws higher into the sky people start heading off to bed. This is often when the buck gets passed and everyone falls asleep with the fire burns alone in the night.

This is when accidents and disasters can happen. All it takes is the fire to POP a large ember out of the ring and into some dry brush. With no one to see or smell the smoke, it could be fire before anyone notices it.

Burning campfire on a dark night in a forest

Put the Fire Out Properly

Someone is going to be the responsible party when it comes to putting the fire out at the end of the night. If that person is you then you have to know how to put a fire out properly. You can dump water on a large fire and watch the flames disappear only to have them reappear in a few minutes. There is a lot of heat in that fire pit.

To put the fire out properly you are going to use water to extinguish the flames. Then you stir that mixture of coals and water with a stick and add a little more water. Stir again. By dispersing the water thoroughly you can be sure that the fire is out.

Fire Safety is Your Responsibility

If your fire burns out of control it is not only a threat to you but to all the species and people around you. We have all watched the west coast wildfires in awe of their destruction. Every year we find out that these fires were the cause of something like arson or just poor fire safety.

When you start a fire in your backyard or at your campground it is your responsibility. What happens with that fire is on you. Don’t make simple mistakes like setting up a fire pit on a wood deck. Take your time, enjoy the fire and make sure it’s out when you are done.

Your next fire can be a reason to gather or a nightmare for everyone around you.

For a great variety of fire building information, check out our page on Fire.