Campfire Safety Tips

With a sudden chill in the air, fall becomes the season for campfires and bonfires. Because of this, it can also be the season of wildfires in forests and grasslands. Peak wildfire season is usually in the summer, but these blazes can happen anytime. (Most areas in the US are prone to wildfires all year.) Even bonfires on the patio or in the backyard can blaze out of control. If you need further proof, just check out these wildfire statistics gathered from a variety of online fire safety sources:

  • There were 25,619 wildfires in America from January 1 to July 30, 2019.
  • People cause an average of 61,375 fires annually.
  • About 67 percent of fires caused by people happen in the southern and eastern areas of the US.
  • People start about 90 percent of all wildfires in the US.
  • Campfires are the leading cause of children’s camping injuries.
  • A 2018 camp fire in Butte County, California killed 88 people and destroyed about 153,00 acres and 18,800 structures.
  • In 2018, it cost more than $3,000,000,000 to suppress 58,083 fires.

Solid Signal doesn’t want to be a Debbie Downer here. We’re not saying you have to quit enjoying those autumn campfire or backyard bonfires. We’re just saying you should do it safely. To help you do that, we’ve gathered some general safety tips from a variety of online fire safety sources. When taking the steps to reduce wildfire risks, you should be able to enjoy a good fire this fall and throughout the year. Here are six tips to help you enjoy your fire while minimizing the risks of it growing out of control:

1. Know the Rules

Whether you’re at a campground, in the woods, or on the patio, you need to know the local fire regulations. Some campgrounds might have recently changed their rules about campfires. Even certain homewowners associations (HOAs) might frown upon unregulated bonfires. Even many communities require you to get a burning permit from your local fire department before you can start making s’mores. The point here is simple: know the laws of the land before you strike that match. If you don’t, you could end up having to pay a hefty fine or worse.

2. Always Dig a Pit

Ever hear the term “fire pit?” There’s a very good reason why that’s even a word. When you keep your campfire in a pit, it helps reduce the chances of your small fire from becoming a raging forest fire. If you’re staying at a campground, there might be a fire pit (or fire ring) already prepared. If you’re out in the woods, we highly recommend you dig a fire pit. Make sure it’s not near any trees with overhanging branches or anything else that could catch fire.

If you’re having a backyard bonfire, you might not want to dig a pit. We get it. An unsightly hole in the ground filled with ashes might not be the best look in your yard. Fortunately, there are several types of hearths you can buy. These devices contain the wood you’re burning, which in turn helps keep your fire from spreading. Again, check with your local fire department before investing in a hearth.

3. Wet the Ground

That’s right, fire safety experts recommend soaking the ground around your fire pit with water. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Burning embers can leap from your fire and land outside the pit. These small burning pieces of wood can catch fire to anything that’s able to burn. This could become a HUGE problem. All this can be avoided if you just grab a couple buckets of water and soak the ground around the pit. You should be camping near a source of water anyway.

4. Build a Proper Campfire

If you’re camping, always burn local wood instead of bringing your own. (Is B.Y.O.W. even a thing?) Here’s why you should never transport firewood from one area to another: certain tree-killing insects and diseases can live in firewood. If you transport these dangers to another area, you could wipe out large populations of trees that haven’t been exposed to these bugs. If you’re camping in the woods, finding things to burn shouldn’t be a problem. Just make sure to bring the tools you need to chop down a tree.

Many fires start with the strike of a match. Unfortunately, many wildfires start this way too. It usually happens when someone uses a match to start the fire then throws that still-burning match on the ground. If you’re using a match to start your fire, douse it with water when you’re done or toss the match into the fire, itself.

Need some tips on how to build the perfect campfire? Many fire safety experts agree that starting with dried leaves or grass is a good start. Once you get that burning, add some small twigs and sticks. Only when that’s burning well should you throw on a few logs. This process can and should also be used when you’re having a bonfire in a hearth instead of using lighter fluid or other flammable liquids. Better safe than sorry, right?

5. Remember the “15-Foot Rule”

All it takes is a breeze to spread your campfire or bonfire and make it burn out of control. To help prevent wildfires, keep everything flammable such as firewood about 15 feet away from the fire. You should also make sure your tent and other belongings are at least 15 feet way from the fire, too. The same rules apply to backyard bonfires. Don’t be close enough to catch your house on fire. Yes, it’s happened, and we DON’T want it to happen to you.

What’s the other side of the 15-foot rule? You should never be 15 feet or more away from a burning fire. Unattended fires in the woods or your patio are no different than unattended cooking fires. With no one there to put it out, it can quickly get out of control. To make this short and simple, never leave a campfire or bonfire unattended. If you’re done enjoying the fire, put it out!

6. Putting Out Your Fire

You should never leave your campground or patio until you know you’ve put out the fire. To do this, you need both water and a shovel. You also need to know the right process for safely putting out a campfire or bonfire. Here are the steps that multiple fire safety experts recommend you use:

  1. Dump water on the fire.
  2. Stir the ashes with a shovel.
  3. Dump more water on the fire.
  4. Move stones and logs to make sure none are hot.
  5. Repeat this process if logs/stones are hot.

Make sure campfire is cold before you leave your campground or patio. We can’t stress this enough. If even one ember is allowed to smolder, it could end up causing a wildfire. This is why fire safety experts say it’s not safe to simply throw dirt on top of a burning fire. Embers can burn beneath that dirt and lead to bigger problems. This is why it’s recommended to use water first then stir the ashes with a shovel as described above.

A Convenient Campfire

Solid Signal shared these tips to help you and your family safely enjoy a campfire or backyard bonfire. There’s something else we have to help you stay safe. It’s this wood pellet fire pit that we carry. If you use this for your bonfire or campfire, you don’t have to dig holes into the ground or chop down trees. You just fill it with easy-to-use wooden pellets and enjoy a fire with less smoke. (It’s the way this fire pit is designed.) There’s even a canvas tote to take it with you to the campsite.

It’s a lot easier to keep your fire continued in this fire pit. It’s also cuts down on a lot of the steps we shared in the tips above. Putting out fires in this pit is easy too. If you’re someone who enjoys campfires or backyard bonfires, this might be the thing for you. Do you want to know more about this unique product, give us a call at 888-233-7563. Our reps will be happy to answer your questions.

About the Author

Jake Buckler
Jake Buckler is a cord-cutter, consumer electronics geek, and Celtic folk music fan. Those qualities, and his writing experience, helped him land a copywriting gig at Signal Group, LLC. He also contributes to The Solid Signal Blog.