Campfire Safety

Campfire Safety When the sun goes down and the night sky appears, campers gather around the fire to tell stories, sing songs and experience the warmth a fire offers. However, campfires can also present some risk. Here are some campfire safety precautions to think about the next time you’re out on a camping adventure and wish to make
a fire.
Things you will need:
Lighter or matches                       
Shovel
Hatchet
Bucket
Water (8 litres is recommended)
  • STEP 1: The first step to having a safe campfire is to check if there is a fire ban in effect in that area
    - a “know before you go” step. Here is a link to see if there currently is a fire ban in your area: http://bcwildfire.ca/hprscripts/wildfirenews/bans.asp
    If there is a fire ban, sorry – no campfire this time, but if there is no ban, please continue to step 2.
  • STEP 2: Where campfires are permitted, use approved fire-rings or pits to build your fire. Start by
    clearing a four foot radius around the designated fire area. The area should be free of grass, twigs,
    leaves, and firewood. Note that the fire should be at least 15 feet away from tent walls, hanging
    branches, and any surrounding brush.
  • STEP 3: Typically, to start and maintain a healthy campfire you’ll need 3 types of wood:
    1. Tinder (twigs and dead branches - but, do not gather dead or downed branches from the campsite
      or surrounding brush) or small, dry bits of kindling.
    2. Kindling (small and thin pieces of wood)
    3. Fuel (firewood)
    When the wood is collected, and sitting at a safe distance away from the campfire you can loosely pile the tinder in the centre of the fire pit. Once a solid collection of tinder has been laid, it is time to place the kindling on top. There are a number of ways to stack kindling, but the standard method is to make a tipi shape. Ignite your lighter or match and bring it to the tinder. To get the fire going, blow lightly on the base of it. Remember to use caution because smoke can easily get into your eyes, also because your face is close to the flames of the fire.

    Once the fire has some life to it you should add more kindling to build up some coals. When the fire is burning hot enough, add the fuel (larger pieces of wood) to the fire. Try not to overload the firewood because this can smother the fire. When the fire is going strong, this is the time to place your hands on your hips and proudly gaze at your accomplishment. This is also a good time to clear the throat to prepare your singing or storytelling voice.

    Remember to keep the fire small and under control. Under the Wildfire Act regulations, campfires cannot be larger than 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres – roughly a foot-and-a-half by a foot-and-a-half. Never leave a fire unattended and never cut live branches from a tree. It is extremely important that children and pets are supervised around the campfire; remember that serious burns can occur if children or pets fall into or make contact with the fire. One good way to prevent accidents is to place chairs or benches in a four foot radius around the fire; if children come into that area, have them sit next to an adult to minimize risks of them falling or coming in contact with the fire.
  • STEP 4: When good things must come to an end, the best way to extinguish a fire is to let the wood burn completely to ash if possible. If there is not enough time to allow for this, the next best thing to do is to completely extinguish the fire with buckets of water. Please make sure you drown all of the embers, not just the red ones. Pour water until the hissing sounds stops. Use your shovel to stir and break up the campfire, and to scrape all embers off of the logs. It is best to ensure that you have enough water on hand to extinguish your fire (8 litres best), but if this is not possible, you can use sand or dirt to smother the fire (this method should be used only as a last resort). Be very careful with this method, because the sand and dirt camouflage the still-hot coals;  the majority of burn injuries from campfires occur the day after the fire. Just remember that a fire can stay hot for long periods of time underneath sand and dirt.

    Once the fire has been successfully extinguished it is time to unzip the tent door and crawl into your sleeping bag for it’ll be an early morning the next day filled with adventures. Have fun out there.
For more information about fire management check out Wildfire Management Branchs’ Web pages:
http://bcwildfire.ca/