I am the God of Hellfire! And I bring to you…..FIRE (safety).
Hello wanderers! In this article, we bring you some tips, tricks and advice for enjoying your campfire whilst out on your adventures. Whether you are at an established site, a campground or in the sticks, we hope you find some useful information on starting, maintaining and extinguishing your fire.
As this is a big topic, and close to my heart, I have divided it into 4 seperate articles, Fire Safety! (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4).
In Part 1, we discuss what to do before building and setting your fire.
In part 2, we teach you how to build, start and maintain a successful fire.
In part 3, you’ll learn how to safely extinguish your campfire.
In part 4, we will share our expert tips and tricks…maybe you’ll learn something new!
So let us begin…
FIRE REGULATIONS AND RESTRICTIONS
First and foremost, before leaving on your trip, check to see if your destination has any restrictions in place, and what those restrictions mean by using this website.
Campgrounds may have there own, additional regulations posted so be sure to check any information bulletins, or with the host or owner before firing it up!
Sometimes a county will inact a complete FIRE BAN in dangerous weather (dry, high winds), or if there is a wildfire nearby. You will most likely see signs along your route and at the detination stating that a complete ban is in place. Fines for ignoring these are steep and will ruin your vacation, let alone the remorse and guilt you may feel if something unfortuante occurs. These two young men felt that wrath when they failed to put out their campfire correctly, resulting in the loss of homes, acreage and wildlife. They were charged and plead guilty to arson, serving 2 years on work release, another 4 years on probation and had to pay damages up to 1 million dollars!
If there is a fire pit or established fire ring in place at your spot, use it! If not, try and find a spot that does. Don’t worry, there will be plenty around! I have journeyed to some remote areas, tens of miles of any path, beaten or not(!), and low and behold….fire ring! Feel free to rebuild parts of the ring or shift some stones around before bringing your fire to life.
BE AWARE that in some, protected areas, you may be required to use a fire pan, even with an established fire ring present. The Arkansas River district around Buena Vista and Salida, Colorado requires these (as well as a honey pot – a post for another time!) so don’t be caught short! Here is an informative document from the Bureau of Land Management on the fire pans and their usage.
These days, many people choose to buy and use portable fire pits. There are many different types out there that you can have a traditional wood burning fire in, or that are gas fueled. If weight isn’t a problem, you might consider going this route with less mess, more efficiency, better safety perameters and less impact to the environment.
Assess your situation. Are you staying in one place long enough to properly prepare and extinguish a fire? Is there enough fuel around? What’s the weather like? Is someone able to stay alert and responsible for the fire you are about to build? Will it be attended at all times (hint, the answer to this one is YES!). Consider these elements before beginning your search for….
There is a lot to note here, so see the list of DO’s and DON’TS below when it comes to finding fuel for your traditional campfire.
* Collect sticks, twigs, pine needles, dried leaves and larger pieces of wood that have fallen or broken completely from living OR DEAD trees, from the earth’s FLOOR.
* Organize your find into fire starters, small pieces, medium, large, dry, wet etc. and store these grouping a safe distance from where the fire will be, ensuring any stray sparks do not unknowingly smoulder in your piles. Taking the extra minute to get organized will make it easier to enjoy your evening knowing you don’t have to search for the next, perfect piece of fuel.
* Gather A LOT of wood! Preparing for your fire can be a time consuming job and although that stack may look like enough, you’ll be amazed at how much fuel you can get through if you plan to sit around the fire most of the night. It is usually one of the first jobs I’ll assign at camp, after setting up any needed equipment or levelling out the vehicle. But it doesn’t have to be a chore! Enjoy the hike, you’ll get a lot of exercize, and you can even make a game of it for the kids. “Whoever gathers the most kindling gets an extra smore tonight!” etc…
* Buy wood locally. If you intend to buy some bundle of wood, do so at, or close to your destination.
* Keep other flammable materials, clothing, stuff bags, hair, people (!) a safe distance from the fire at all times. A big log may suddenly explode and crack in the intense heat, a gust of wind may whip up those white embers, you get the idea. Safety first.
* Use flammable liquids to start a fire. Now, I know for some of this, this is our “go to”. But if you continue to read these article, you won’t need to use this chemical and polluting cheat ever again!
* Cut, break or in any way take wood from standing trees, dead or alive! Even if the tree is dead, it is still providing a home to a variety of insects and other creatues and flora.
* Bring wood from “home”, unless “home is within the same county. Insects, beetles and even parasites and fungus can be transported to a new location this way, and we try and keep in harmony with the current environment.
* Have such a “good time” that you are unable to look after the fire and extinguish it safely. Stay present and aware, or at least have a volunteer dedicated fire marshall who will take responsibility.
So that’s the end of FIRE SAFETY! (Part 1). Please stay tuned for parts 2, 3, and 4 and you will be on solid ground to confidently enjoy the flickering flames on your travels.