Who doesn’t love kicking back with a cold one around a crackling fire? Campfires are a perfectly safe and enjoyable way to gather with friends/family. However, when they’re not treated with proper precautions, situations can turn unsafe very quickly. Since 2000, the US averages 70,600 wildfires every year, resulting in 140 million acres of burnt land. 90% of these fires were directly related to human activities, (Congressional Research Service – Wildfire Statistics, 2021) and increasing rapidly. By following the 5 tips below, we can all do our part in lowering the devastating effects of wildfires.
1. Pick a Smart Location
When choosing a campfire location, make sure you keep these things in mind:
Distance to Water
If you’re planning on building a campfire, try to set up within a short walk to a water source in case of emergency. Being able to quickly extinguish a potential blaze is integral from stopping the spread at the source.
Make sure you have at least two metres (six feet) of space around the campfire from any flammable materials. Even a modest sized fire can send sparks from dry wood flying, making for a dangerous situation if the site isn’t cleared.
Similarly, make sure you do not choose a location with low hanging branches, tarps, or other flammable materials. It’s recommended to leave at least three metres (10 feet) of clearance for safety.
2. Prepare Your Site
Once you’ve chosen a campsite that can fit the space requirements in step 1, it’s time to prepare the site. Make sure your two-metre radius is cleared of flammable items like sticks, pine needles, grass, leaves, etc. Ensure the space directly under your fire is either bare rock or bare soil to limit any chances of spreading. For extra precaution, it’s smart to keep a bucket of water and shovel nearby to control the fire.
3. Don’t Overbuild
Keeping your fire under 1 metre high and 1 metre wide will make it much easier to control and put out once finished. Make sure the wood is low and stable to ensure no pieces come rolling out of the pit area. A small fire still produces plenty of heat for cooking and doesn’t cause your tools to blacken as much as a larger fire.
4. Keep a Watchful Eye
Leaving a campfire unattended is one of the leading causes of wildfires. Even a controlled fire can quickly turn into a sour situation with a shift in wind, large spark, or falling log. Make sure if you’re camping with young children to never leave them unattended around an open flame. The easiest way to stop a fire from getting out of control is to be there to stop a situation from escalating.
5. Smoldering Doesn’t Mean Safe
Make sure you FULLY extinguish your fire before leaving the campsite. Trusting the embers to burn out on their own is extremely risky. The best way to quickly extinguish a campfire is to pour cold water directly on the remaining coals, stir the fire to disperse internal heat, pour more water, and repeat until the coals are cool enough to touch.
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