In a perfect world, campfires would stay contained and be used only for s’mores and hot dogs. However, it’s not a perfect world and the vast majority of wildfires, which are sometimes fatal, are caused by careless campers. Phillip Elden says education is the best weapon against tragedy.
According to Phillip Elden, your first priority if you’re planning to build a campfire is to make sure that your particular site allows fires in the first place. Check with your local park ranger to see if there are burn bans in place and pay attention to the wind. A mild breeze is likely not a problem, however, high winds can easily send smoldering debris through the air, and leave your fire out of control.
Dig a fire pit that’s at least 15-feet away from overhanging branches, further if you’re near dead trees. According to Phillip Elden, your fire pit should always be clearly marked with large rocks and circled by a 10-foot radius of bare dirt that has been cleared of flammable materials, such as dry leaves or twigs. Extra wood must be stored 20 feet upwind of the flames.
Even small fires require constant tending by a responsible adult, preferably one who is sober. Fire starters should keep a bucket of water nearby along with a shovel. When it is time to put the fire out, it should be doused with water and charred remains buried to smother any remaining cinders. Phillip Elden cautions that campers should not sit on large rocks within a few feet of the flames, as these can heat up fast, causing burns.
Phillip Elden believes that everyone should have an opportunity to enjoy nature, and the simple pleasure of fire-roasted s’mores. But, he says that safety is the number one priority and if everyone followed the rules, we could enjoy up to 90% fewer wildfires. So remember, if you’re going to build a fire, your fun should never overshadow safety precautions.