How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it
takes a whole box to start a campfire?
Most people view the local news reports about forest fires with a sense of detachment. Unfamilar regions & distant lands. As an outdoor enthusiast, my heart sinks & my eyes tear up when I hear the reports.
A forest fire raging outta control means I am loosing a friend. A place I know. A place I love.
An area that will never be the same - not in my lifetime. Fantastic tree filled views can disppear in a day - gone. Gone for 20 years or more.
Dirt I have camped on, shady trees I have enjoyed, meadows I have picniked in, scenery I value. I recall listening to the wind in the trees of a particular forest & all the great times I shared with friends. Now it's all just a fond memory.
Living in California we all hear about these wild fires which rage out of control for days. We all want to enjoy nature as much as possible. And as long as possible! Follow some simple steps & common sense to make yourself aware of how & when to build a safe camp fire. We are all depending on you to keep it under control.
The western U.S. experiences wildfires every year and you do not want to be the cause of this kind of catastophy. Campfire permits are issued at no charge to insure fire restrictions are followed correctly. You may need to educate yourself on the proper way to have a back country fire, but with a bit of reading below, you'll have the basics down. Some regions are very strict on their permits & primitive camping. Please contact the Southern California National Forest directly for their regulations.
If you wanna camp outside of developed campgrounds in dispersed camping areas, contact rangers first & obtain with free annual fire permit... check with a ranger on current fire restrictions!
Obey the signs, check the winds, & by the way -- NO FIRES, means no fires!!
NOTE: Some restrictions may apply in extreme fire seasons. Always call ahead if conditions are questionable -
Use only dead and down wood.
Never break branches from standing trees, even if they appear
Keep your fire small, so
it does not get out of control and future campers will be able
to find firewood too.
Have large shovel at your
Bring a bucket for quick
Keep the fire small &
Before you turn in for bedtime,
make sure there are no flames, windy conditions & remember
to fold up your camp chairs & lay them down. Winds have been
known to blow them into the fire & ignite.
Extinguish old coals &
firepit any time you leave camp.
making a fire ring
Always use an established fire ring
if available! If you must build a new fire ring,
select a level spot away from over hanging trees, bushes, or
dry grass. Avoid the base of steep hills, as fire travels uphill
quickly. Clear a circle 10 feet across down to bare dirt. Hollow
out a fire hole two feet across, and five or six inches deep.
Pile the soil around the edge of the fire hole.
tending to a camp fire
Pay attention to dry brush near camp, wind
conditions, branches over head & embers that pop out of the
firepit. Do not dispose of glass, metal, plastic or aluminum
foil into the fire, this just leaves a mess for future campers
to look at.
Make sure there are no flames when it's bedtime;
if so drown the fire. The wind could always pick up when you
are asleep. Lay all camp chairs down well away from the fire
put fire dead out
Even if you had a fire the night before &
the fire seems out. The coals are still cooking way underneath.
Pour water on it & hear the sizzling. Put your fire dead
out at least 1/2 hour before you start to break camp. Let the
coals die down, then pour water over the ashes, and spread soil
over them. Mix soil, water, and ashes until all embers are completely
An old washing machine tub works for keeping your
fire contained & doesn't scar the earth.
do not build your fire
on a upward slope. Fire travels up hill fast; plus the winds
build a fire on top of pine needles; fluffy soil. Dig
down to the bare soil. Clear fire (sparks fly out) radius at
least 8 feet around pit.
do not start you fire
with charcoal lighter fluid. There are plenty of products on
the market such as fire starter sticks to help with such a task.
do not throw plastics,
glass or aluminum into the campfire. It is very difficult to
build a fire in windy conditions.
build a fire anywhere without a free
fire permits issued by a ranger. NOTE: Some additional
restriction may apply in extreme fire seasons.
to build a campfire
Use an existing fire ring when available. This advice helps
along with the minimum impact camping technics. Don't build a
new fire against a boulder.
Situate your fire at least 10 feet away from tents, trees,
roots and flammable items.
When using a campfire ring: clear leaves, pines needles
& all ground cover a minimum 5 feet diameter.
Gather firewood and kindling using only fallen branches or
down wood. Check to make sure the wood is dry & seasoned
(not green & freshly cut)
Read all signs. Many parks and forest even forbid gathering
fallen branches. It plays an important role in the ecosystem
of the wilderness.
Build a pile of kindling, including paper scraps, dry plant
matter and other small, flammable items. On rainy conditions
or existing damp wood you may want to try the convenient 'firestarter
sticks' now sold in supply stores.
Create a pyramid of dry twigs and small sticks around the
kindling pile. Add a few medium size branches on top of the exiting
pyramid. Light the kindling with a match.
Add increasingly larger sticks and then logs as the fire
Do not create bon fires (taller than 4 feet) in the wilderness
or build camp fires under extreme windy conditions.
Always leaving enough space between them for the fire to
breathe. You may need to be fan the fire in order to keep the
air circulating within the flames. Paper plates, cardboard, plastic
box lid - all works well for this.
Before you turn in for bedtime, make sure the fire has no
flames - embers only & windy conditions are non-existent.
When breaking camp or leaving camp for more than a few minutes
make sure to drown your fire completely out. Poor water all over
it, until no sizzling sound can be heard. The old left over
water at the bottom of the ice chest works great for this.
Prescribed fires or 'controlled burns' by National Forest &
Park Services help keep the underlying brush fuel down to a minimum;
which helps the forest with carbon in the soil and for decreasing
future wild fires.