Campfires

  • Young women roasting marshmallows around a campfire

Purpose

Learn how to build and extinguish a campfire safely.

Description

Plan an activity where you learn how to build campfires safely and extinguish them completely. Contact your local fire department and become aware, before you start, of the fire regulations and rules for the area where you will build a fire. Some fire departments may be willing to send a representative to teach you about fire safety. You could also plan a longer activity, such as an overnight campout, where you can use the skills you have learned. You may find the following list helpful as you plan these activities.

  • Gathering fuel. Learn about the different types of fuel needed for a fire, such as tinder, kindling, and logs. Use only dead wood. Make sure you know how to work with coal if you want to build a coal fire. Gather your fuel in a pile near where you want to build the fire. Make sure the area is clear from tree branches, and check with local officials before lighting any outdoor fire.
  • Types of fires. Build your fire in a fire ring or pit that already exists if possible. You should only build a fire in areas where you’re permitted to burn a wood fire. Learn about and practice the different types of fires. Tepee fires, for example, create high flames and will help cook food in reflector ovens. Crisscross fires burn for a long time and create a deep bed of coals, which can be useful in Dutch oven cooking. Star fires create low, slow heat that can be used in spit cooking.
  • Maintain the fire. Keep your campfire at a manageable size. Never leave your fire unattended, and never collect wood or branches from live trees or other underbrush.
  • Waterproof matches. Learn how to waterproof your matches using Turpentine, nail polish, or candle wax. Create or find a waterproof container to store them in.
  • Start a fire without matches. Learn how to start fires using flint and steel, a magnifying glass, or a bow drill.
  • Extinguishing fires. Learn to extinguish campfires using dirt, sand, or water. Drown all embers, stir the ashes, and make sure that everything is wet and cold to the touch. If it’s too hot to touch, then it’s too hot to leave unattended. Make sure you know how to clean up your fire pit so that you leave no trace of your campsite. Learn how to use fire extinguishers, and become familiar with other fire safety equipment. You could invite local fire safety officials to teach you how to deal with accidental or dangerous fires.

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