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Camping and Fires: Safety and Tips

August 13, 2018

friends around a campfire

Some Reminders about Wildfires:

While there are many various causes of wildfires (including fires that occur naturally) there are four typical causes of wildfires by humans:

  •      Campfires
  •      Fireworks
  •      Cigarettes
  •      Vehicles

Fortunately, with a few easy steps, wildfires are mostly preventable. Here are some best practices as far as prevention for 3 of the main causes of human-based wildfires:

  • Cigarettes: Easy. Arguably the most preventable. To prevent, refrain from discarding cigarettes on the ground or out of car windows. Instead, we recommend fully extinguishing cigarettes in a cup of water before disposing of them in a proper garbage can. This method has an added bonus of reducing litter, which is good for the environment.
  • Vehicles: The main factor here is mixing heat exhaust from your vehicle with dry vegetation on the ground underneath the car. The way to avoid accidentally igniting dry vegetation is by never parking over it. Instead, if local conditions are dry, try to park over sand, gravel, or asphalt to avoid starting a blaze. Finally, make sure any off-road vehicle you use has a working spark arrester, as faulty ones can also cause an accidental blaze.
  • Fireworks: First, it is important to note that fireworks are illegal to use in many areas, especially forested and dry areas. But if your heart is set on bringing fireworks, you need to make sure that fireworks are permitted at your destination. If fireworks are legal where you are going, be sure to only use fireworks on flat surfaces and in areas without any dry grass or trees. We recommend also keeping a bucket of water nearby to extinguish your fireworks once you are done.
  • Campfires: Below you'll find some information on properly starting and putting out a campfire, but there are also some precautions you can take while the fire is going. Always make sure things like clothes, chairs, and gear is secured and away from the fire (especially if it's windy), and keep the fire supervised to protect kids, pets, and other wanderers from getting hurt. Remember never to burn your trash, and that you should only burn wood in the same area where it's purchased or retrieved. Many forests have been decimated by folks introducing new insects (and new diseases) carried in on firewood from other regions. By using local firewood, you'll help protect forests for years to come.

Before You Go Camping:

  1. Follow all local laws and regulations. Just like fireworks, the law varies from area to area what can be burned, what time of day things can be burned, and even what time of year things can be burned. Know if a permit is needed for a fire, and if fires can only be had in designated areas. You can plan accordingly by either Googling your campsite online, or by asking someone at the local visitor center near the campsite.
  2. Check the weather. The main things to avoid are excessive dryness and wind. When winds are high, the wind can accelerate the burning of substances and can spread the fire beyond control. As far as resources, check your states most current fire danger rating system, which details any areas’ susceptibility to fires and any extra precautions that may be necessary. Additionally, the Wildland Fire Assessment System provides a frequently updated map that shows the current fire danger rating for each state.

How to Have a Campfire:

Wondering how to start your first campfire, or need a refresher for an upcoming trip? Below is a quick guide to starting, maintaining, and putting out your fire. Remember to always check local ordinances about campfires before you start one, just in case fire restrictions are in place or permits are necessary:

Campfire Guidelines; How to Create a Campfire; Campfire Safety

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