Spring is here, which means it’s time to head into the woods for some family outings by the campfire. It also means the ground cover is drying out and it’s warm enough for that fire to get out of control if you’re not careful. Here are some fire safety tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe this season.
Build a Pit
Keeping a fire contained is the most important part of building one at your site. You want enough room for the fire without wayward flames sparking a forest fire. Dig a fire pit to create a natural barrier that will contain your campfire. A hole in the ground away from the trees and brush will go a long way in keeping the fire from spreading. Surround the edges of the pit with stones if available.
It’s important to clear your campsite of debris. Move sticks, leaves and fallen brush away from the flames, at least five feet but preferably more than eight, to make sure they don’t catch fire from blowing embers. Similarly, don’t build a fire underneath a hanging branch. Also remove any pressurized containers or flammable items you brought with you away from the campfire.
Buy a Fire Pit
If you’re not comfortable making your own fire pit, or just want to save yourself the hassle, consider buying a portable one instead. A solid propane fire pit is a great way to heat a campsite without creating a mess of smoke and embers that could set the place ablaze. Many of them come with a regulator to help control the heat and flames, making your job a cinch.
Keep Water on Hand
The leaves might be new but that doesn’t mean they can’t catch fire in an instant, so always keep water on hand to douse the flames. A couple of jugs or buckets of H20 should be reserved for the campfire. Just be sure not to pour anything like alcohol on the flames, unless you want the fire to burst out of control.
Extinguish it Before Bed
Absolutely do not leave the fire burning when you go to bed. This is the quickest way to start a forest fire because even the smallest of embers left burning can get blown into the woods, or dry leaves can get blown into the pit. If the fire reignites while you’re asleep in your tent the smoke and flames could overwhelm you before you realize what’s happening. Douse the flames in water and spread the ashes with a stick to make sure nothing is left burning. Remember that if you’re using coals they can stay warm for up to 24 hours.
Stack Your Wood Upwind
Prepare for unexpected gusts by stacking your spare wood upwind. Twigs and brush left lying near the fire can easily ignite when embers are blown into them, so avoid this by keeping combustibles out of the path. Always stack extra firewood upwind so the embers can’t catch it. Never build a campfire on a very windy day.
Avoid Flammable Liquid
Lighter fluids and gasoline should only be used on propane tanks and grills specifically designated for their use, not campfires. Adding liquids like these to the fire can cause it to quickly spiral out of control, putting you and wildlife in danger. Use kindling and crumpled paper instead. If you’re unable to build a fire the natural way, consider eschewing an open flame.