Lifesaving Campfire Safety Tips – Prevent Forest Fires & Injuries!

Did you know that almost 85% of forest fires are caused by humans? Because of irresponsibility, wildlife is displaced, their habitats and the natural environment is destroyed not to mention, leave many affected homeowners homeless. It’s been reported that campfires are amongst the top contributors of forest fires. But, we can all stop that. By practicing basic campfire safety, we can help prevent forest fires, protect wildlife and minimize personal injuries.

Campfire Safety Tips - Always On Liberty

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Lifesaving Campfire Safety Tips

          • Prevent Forest Fires
          • Protect Wildlife
          • Minimize Injuries

According to the National Park Service (Wildfire Causes and Evacuations), irresponsibly left campfires have been impacting areas for decades.

Annually, the U.S. spends approximately $3 billion dollars to fight forest fires. And as of recent, that figure rises as climate change and poor forestry management elongates the fire season.

The other forest fire culprits are burning of debris, equipment use and malfunctions, negligently discarded cigarettes, and intentional acts of arson.

*Source: 2000-2017 data based on Wildland Fire Management Information (WFMI) and U.S. Forest Service Research Data Archive

And that’s why we’re writing this article. To help educate people about the dangers of campfires and preservation of our National Park and woodlands are so important.

So, let’s see how we can be better stewards of the our natural habitats by practicing positive campfire safety.

Follow Fire Bans

Fire Ban Sign - Campfire Safety Tips

Fire restrictions and fire bans are put in place to reduce the risk of human-caused forest fires during times of high or extreme fire danger.

So, before starting any fire, ensure there are no local fire bans where you’re camping. Pay attention to the fire danger signs posted near campgrounds, state and national parks.

If you’re camping in the backcountry, always check with the Ranger to see if there are any fire bans you need to be aware of before lighting up.

Be aware, if you do start a fire during a fire restriction on federal lands, you will be subject to rigid penalties; a hefty fine, imprisonment or both.

✰ RELATED  Check out these Fun Campfire Alternatives During Burn Bans While Camping!

Use Existing Campfire Rings

Campfire Ring - Campfire Safety

When you build a campfire, always use existing fire rings that are away from tree lines, brush piles, dry areas, etc. If not, relocate the fire ring to a safer spot on your campsite.

If there is no campfire ring, clear a perimeter away from those those and trees with low canopies. Create a safety barrier by clearing away dry brush and grass, fallen branches, pinecones and leaves away from your fire ring area.

Then, gather enough large rocks to create a circular fire ring. Stack your kindling and firewood at least 15-20′ away from your campfire. As well, set up your tent and camper at a safe distance from your campfire.

Keep Water Near Your Campfire at ALL Times

Keeping water readily available near your campfire is an absolute must. 

Whether it’s a few buckets of water or an energized hose ready to spray, some sort of water source and quick action will help prevent the fire from spreading.

When you douse your campfire, never use a straight stream of water. That will only displace the coals and live embers. It may also cause sparks to ignite nearby vegetation or trees.

So, only use the fog option on your water hose nozzle. Use slow, long sweeps. Keep the water on your campfire until there are no visibly hot coals left. 

If water isn’t available, use dirt or sand that’s free of dried leaves or small kindling.

Don’t simply kick a little sand or dirt on your fire and call it a night. And, always cover your campfire and coals completely using a camp shovel.

Gently spread the coals out with a fire poker, metal rake or your camp shovel above. Keep adding sand or dirt until the campfire coals are completely extinguished and showing no signs of burning.

Whichever method you use to extinguish your campfire, stay with the campfire location for at least 15 minutes to insure the fire doesn’t reignite or spread.

Never Build a Campfire When It’s Windy

It’s never a good idea to start a campfire even with a little breeze or with winds over 5 mph.

If the wind picks up after starting your fire, douse your campfire immediately and completely.

Should your campfire spark a nearby brush or ground cover, try to douse it the best you can using water and heavy blankets. Note your exact location and call 911.

If you have no cell service, send one of your campers to the nearest park ranger or campground host to report the fire.

Should you be camping alone or in the backcountry, using your GPS unit, note the exact coordinates of the fire location and immediately head to the Ranger Station to report it.

Keep Your Campfire Small

Especially when camping in the backcountry and even campgrounds, keep your campfire small. Large fires are hard to control.

Never allow your campfire to encroach outside the boundaries of your fire ring. Just as important, never allow your campfire to rise higher than 18″ in height. 

Keeping your campfire small will last longer because you’re not using up all of your firewood at one time.

Always Post Adult Supervision 

Never leave a child alone to tend the campfire. Even if your older child or teen can tend the campfire, they are not equipped to handle the responsibility or emergency should something happen.

Should a burning ember rise start another fire or if a younger child were to fall into the campfire, most teens lack the mental capacity to act responsively.

Even if your son or daughter may be the master campfire starter in Scouts, you still need to post an adult to monitor your campfire.

All it takes is one split second for a spark to start an unintended wildfire.

✰✰ CAMPFIRE PRO TIP ✰✰ Check out these great  10 Fun Things to Do Around the Campfire *Camping Activities*

Keep children and pets at a safe distance

Family Roasting Marshmallows Around Campfire Safety Tips

First, teach all of your children about campfire safety. Keep everyone in your camping party a safe distance from the campfire.

Make it a campfire safety rule to never allow children play around or stoke fires. Even if it means you have to constantly remind them.

There should be absolutely no horse play or running, jumping, or shoving each other around an fire.

As well, keep pets a safe distance away from the campfire as well. It’s best to keep them on a short leash to keep them away from the fire. Also, a short leash will help prevent other campers from tripping over the leash and possibly falling into the fire.

If your family wants to make s’mores, I highly recommend using marshmallow roasting sticks with longer handles. And, it bears repeating to always have an adult present to assist the little ones so they don’t get too close to the fire or start a fire with their lit marshmallows.

Also, use a good quality pie iron to make your pudgie pies. Never allow your children to handle pie irons as they get extremely hot and will cause severe burns if touched.

Keep all flammables away

Never use flammables such as charcoal lighter, gasoline, lighter fluid, bug torch oil, insect repellents, butane, to start your campfire.

This includes any cooking oils or cooking fat. Also, keep butane and propane canisters from cookstoves separate and far away from any fire source.

In other words, keep all flammables away from your campfire. 

Flammables can combust quickly even from just the fumes. Be conscious of accidental drips and spills from flammable liquids.

All it take is a single live ember to land on the ground where spillage occurred.

Burn only natural materials

Children building fire

Fire pits are not trash cans! Never burn anything other than natural materials such as fire starters, fat wood, natural tinder and local dry seasoned wood.

And though it doesn’t relate to campfires, you should never transport firewood across state lines. Doing so will introduce infestations of unwelcome insects that are not native to the new environment.

Don’t throw any paper products like paper plates and bowls in the fire pit as they have plastic coating that emits toxic fumes when burned.

But also, paper plates that may have residual meat fat or cooking oil will ignite quickly or cause a grease fire.

Equally important, never burn pressure treated wood as it contains arsenic and other harmful chemicals injected into the wood. Burning pressure treated wood emits extremely toxic chemicals into the air that will cause respiratory distress in both humans and wildlife.

And lastly, never toss in any cans, glass, plastic bottles or any foreign matter into the fire, period. Campfire pits are not trash cans. 

In other words, keep your campfire simple; using only natural materials and wood only.

Lastly, be mindful of other campers who may be in close proximity to you. Be aware of burning embers that can land on their tent or camper. And more of a courtesy, don’t allow your campfire to smolder and smoke out your neighbors.

Never relocate a live fire or hot coals

Relocating a live fire is extremely dangerous! For one, you run a seriously high risk of carelessly spreading the fire or sparking a wildland fire.

But also, there’s high potential of burning yourself or those in your camping party.

Once your campfire is lit, leave it where it is. Never move or transfer any part of your campfire from one location to another.

Never dump smoking coals or burning logs into the woods or on dry ground

You should never dispose of or dump any coals into the woods; even if you think they are completely extinguished. Only dispose of your grill or campfire coals into proper receptacles (if provided).

Or, wait until the coals are completely cold before leaving your campsite.

Always use good judgement around the campfire

Adults Drinking Around Campfire Safety

We all know that camping, alcohol and drug use is like a dysfunctional marriage. Even slight alcohol or even using some prescription drugs use may affect your judgement and slow your reaction time.

Think of it this way. When you’re going out drinking with your friends, you always have a designated driver who exhibits rational thinking and response.

The same goes for when you go camping; and especially when campfires are present.

If you are alone or even in a small group, you’d be better off hanging out by your tent or camper with your camping lantern, or using other campfire alternatives or activity that don’t involve fire. 

Another option is using a propane fire pit instead. That way, you can extinguish your fire with just a turn of the knob and shutting off the propane when calling it a night.

✰ CAMPFIRE PRO TIP  Check out these Top 10 Portable Fire Pits for RVs and Camping.

Never leave a campfire unattended

Man Walking Away from Campfire on Beach - Campfire Safety Tips

No matter how small, never turn your back on, walk away from your bonfire or leave your campfire unattended. Even if it’s just to run into your tent or RV to fetch the marshmallows, grab a beverage or hit the bathroom, it’s a hard NO.

Get your needs and get up before lighting that match or lighting the campfire.

Never vacate a campsite while the campfire is still burning

Smoldering Campfire on Empty Campsite

It’s imperative you never leave your campsite if your fire is still smoldering. It means your campfire is still ignited.

You should use any or all of the campfire extinguishing methods mentioned earlier to douse your campfire completely before vacating your campsite or camping area.

Again, it bears repeating, never leave your campsite until you know for sure those coals are completely cool.

Let’s plan your camping trip!

Speaking of campfires and camping, if you’re planning on taking your RV on your next camping adventure, it’s important to plan ahead so your experience will be less stressful.

You surely don’t want to end up on the wrong road with low overheads or roads that aren’t safe for RVs. Trust me, through our 10 years on the road as full-time RVers, we’ve been there!

So, we use RV LIFE Trip Wizard to get us to our favorite camping spots and campgrounds utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to our camper and travel preferences.

Learn more and sign up for the FREE 7-Day Trial.

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Wrapping up

Tent Camping Couple Sitting Around Campfire Under Stars

We all love to enjoy the outdoors. Campfires are all about the camping vibe. They are the hub of an enjoyable outdoor experience. But, with all of that, campfire safety is a responsibility we all need to take seriously. In a split second or turning of your head, a campfire can wreak devastation, severe injury or even death.

As adults, we all need to be responsible stewards of the land and environment around us. 

So, teach your children about campfire safety. Remind them each time you light that kindling that campfires come with immense responsibility.

Explain that campfire injuries are painful and can be life-changing to people and pets.

And show them if they’re careless or irresponsible, the result is catastrophic to the environment, wildlife and even people’s homes and businesses.

Together, by following these simple campfire safety principles, we can help to prevent forest fires while still having a great camping experience around the campfire!

More Camping Tips!

✰ Top 10 Portable Fire Pits for RVs and Camping

✰ 15 Best Pie Iron Recipes for Camping & Backyard BBQs

✰ 10 Quick & Easy Fall Camping Recipes for Campfires or Grills

✰ 15 Cast Iron Skillet Recipes – Cook on Campfires, Stoves or Ovens

✰ 15 Dutch Oven Camping Recipes – Campfire One Pot Wonders

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