Campfire Safety

By joanne lemna | August 18, 2017

Campfires are a treasured part of camping. Not only are they useful for cooking and warmth they’re where you trade stories and songs building those fond memories so many of us have. We want to ensure that everyone can enjoy these special times by being responsible with their campfires. This keeps everyone safe and prevents wildfires.

Setting Up a Campfire

If there’s a designated fire pit or stove use it. They’re specifically designed to reduce the fire risk and will be easier to use than preparing a whole new fire pit.

If you’re outside of a campground and there’s a spot that’s already been used for a campfire use the same spot. If there isn’t one choose an area about 1m in diameter that’s clear of dry grass leaves moss bushes logs and overhanging branches. You may have to clear flammable material away. You’ll want it at least 5m from your tent or RV too. The area should be level and sheltered from wind. While building a fire next to a water source is ideal at the very least have a large container of water near the fire so you can put it out in a hurry if you need to.

Dig or scrape the area of the campfire down to the mineral soil using a shovel or spade piling the dirt nearby. Circle the pit with rocks if you can.

Gather some tinder which can be newspaper dry leaves grass and small twigs. Pile a few handfuls in the centre of the fire pit and add kindling. You can stack the kindling in a variety of ways:

  • Teepee
  • Lean-To – leaning smaller pieces of kindling against on larger piece
  • Log Cabin – build a log cabin with kindling around your pile of tinder.
  • Cross – criss cross kindling over the tinder.

Light the tinder using a match or lighter. Add more tinder as the fire grows. You may need to blow lightly at the base of the fire. Add more kindling and then the larger firewood.

Never use an accelerant like gas or alcohol “to get the fire going.” Don’t cut up live trees either as they will not burn. Using dead trees is not always allowed and disrupts the local ecosystem as these logs provide homes for wildlife. Check to see if you’re allowed to use or cut up deadfall.

Campfire Safety

  • Keep a large container of water nearby in case you need to quickly put the fire out.
  • Keep the area clear of natural and manmade flammable items like leaves and aerosol cans.
  • Don’t let your fire get too big.
  • Supervise kids and pets.
  • Never leave your campfire unattended.
  • Keep toys away from the fire and set boundaries with the kids when it comes to how close they can get.
  • Teach your kids Stop Drop and Roll.

Putting the Campfire Out

  • Let the fire burn down before you put it out.
  • Spread the embers.
  • Add water.
  • Stir.
  • Add more water until you can no longer see smoke or steam. Don’t bury as embers can continue to smoulder. Your campfire should be cool to the touch – no heat from the ashes.

It’s very important that your campfire is completely out in order to prevent wildfires.

Pay Attention to Fire Danger Advisories and Bans

Wildfires have caused huge amounts of destruction over the last few years. Not only do they destroy animal habitat and plant life they can also destroy people’s homes and possessions. Pay attention to fire bans and follow the rules. Below are the categories of fire danger advisories and bans:

No Restriction

No restriction means you can have campfires in campgrounds backcountry and random camping areas however you still need a fire permit for burning anything in the Forest Protection Area.

Fire Advisory

Fire permits may be restricted safe campfires allowed in campgrounds and backcountry or random camping areas but they may be restricted soon.

Fire Restriction

Safe campfires are allowed allowed in fire rings in campgrounds only. No campfires or charcoal briquettes are allowed in backcountry or random camping areas. Fire permits may be suspended or cancelled and no new fire permits will be issued. Gas/propane stoves/BBQs and portable propane fire pits are generally allowed.

Fire Ban

No campfires are allowed in campgrounds or backcountry and random camping areas. All fire permits are cancelled and no new fire permits will be issued. Gas/propane stoves/BBQs and portable propane fire pits are allowed.

Forest Area Closure

The area is closed for public safety due to fire danger.

Call 403-310-FIRE (3473) to report a wildfire.