A nice evening by the glow and heat of a fire can be one of the most enjoyable parts of camping, or if you're just having with your friends on a summer evening. Whether you’re cooking dinner in the wilderness, making s’mores with friends or just basking in the warmth, there are many reasons campfires are a long-standing tradition. That being said, creating a fire comes with a lot of responsibility. In the United States, people start nearly nine out of ten wildfires. So the next time you get ready to light that match, keep these campfire safety tips in mind.
Make sure you know the rules of the campground or area where you’re planning the fire. There may be a temporary ban when the risk of wildfires is higher.
Use an existing fire circle or pit when available. If you’re in a remote area, dig a pit in an open space and circle it with rocks. Keep at least 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs or any other items and debris. Also, stay away from overhanging branches, power lines or other hazards that could catch on fire.
Start your fire with dry grass, leaves or needles and then add sticks less than one inch around. Once the fire gets going, add larger pieces of wood. Many people stack these teepee style or crisscross. Make sure you have a source of water and a shovel nearby in case you need to control the fire.
It can be easy to get distracted and walk away, but it’s important someone always has an eye on the fire. Even a small breeze can spread fire quickly. Take extra care if there are children or pets nearby. Teach kids about the danger of fire and demonstrate how to stop, drop and roll in the event their clothes catch on fire.
When you’re done with your fire, pour water over the entire area until all flames have gone out. Then stir the embers around with a shovel and dump more water on top. Move the stones around the fire pit to check for hidden burning embers underneath. Everything should be cold and wet before you walk away!
If you have any questions about fire rules and safety, call a campground ranger or local authorities. It’s always better to be cautious.
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