Fire Safety - The Most Important Camping Skill

Building a fire along ones campsite not only provides heat and light but also protection from the creepy crawlies of the night.  But while we humans have had a love hate relationship with fire, there does exist some basic guidelines that one should follow whenever a fire is built.

  1. Always use a fire ring.  This basic ring of stone creates a life or death line between fire and the forest.  Many forest fires have occurred because someone did not want to take the time to create the ring.
  2. Always clear the brush and vegetation away from the fire ring location.  This means removing any grass, branches and trash.  A simple way of removing the grass is to perform a controlled burn around the area where the fire ring will be located and slightly beyond.  A controlled fire in this case is a small fire that only burns the existing plant material.
  3. Always have water buckets or pails around the fire ring.  This step consists of placing several buckets of water around the fire.  If you have no buckets consider using old coffee cans.  This is very important especially if you are several feet away from a water source.  A good rule to follow is to have at least four water buckets per fire ring.
  4. Never bring in your own wood.  In many wilderness areas, the Emerald Ash Bore is taking over.  Unsuspecting campers who bring their own wood are introducing this little insect to many areas.  While this practice saves the camper money, it cost nature since the loss of trees means the loss of wildlife.
  5. Never leave a fire unintended.  This not only means prior to leaving the area but also before you go to bed.  If you must go to bed before the fire is out, make sure that the coals are in the center of the fire ring and that the fire has burned down to coals.  On the other hand, if you are leaving the area never leave a fire burning.
  6. Never allow horseplay around a fire.  A few years ago when I was camping I heard of a child that was seriously burned in a campfire.  This child had created a game by which he would try to leap over the fire.  While the first few hundred times he did this he was not hurt, that one time that he miscalculated cost him a severe burn.  Do not allow any behavior such as running, skipping, or poking the fire to occur.  Also, stress to those around the campfire that only wood should go into the fire and not plastic, cans, glass or any chemical.
  7. Before packing up always make sure the fire is out.  To do this, first empty the first water bucket on the fire after it has died down.  Then, turn the coals with a shovel and repeat the process.  Continue this procedure until all the water is used and the coals are cold.  Once that is done, spread out the coals in the fire ring.

Fire safety is the most important camping skill one can have.  Knowing to respect fire and how to safely use it can mean the difference between life and death for man and beast.