Bonfires are a classic staple of a fun camping trip; they keep you warm and were the birthplace of s’mores. However, it’s always important to practice good fire safety when you start any kind of fire. Follow these guidelines to stay safe while enjoying your camping trip and roasting marshmallows.
Before starting any kind of fire, make sure that there aren’t any fire restrictions in place. If current conditions make wildfires more likely, a fire restriction may be implemented which may ban bonfires in certain conditions. Some areas such as parts of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area and the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness area never allow campfires in order to protect the area from potential wildfires. You can read about fire restrictions at fs.usda.gov.
You should also check the weather conditions to see if it’s safe to start a fire. If the area is hot and dry, your fire is more likely to grow into a forest fire. High winds can also cause fires to spread, so it’s best to avoid bonfires when it’s windy out. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
If you’re staying at a campsite, only use designated fire pits for a bonfire. These pits are either made of a metal material or surrounded by stones so the fire is contained. If you’re making your own fire pit, build it at least 10 feet away from any buildings or flammable materials. Make sure there isn’t anything in the fire pit that shouldn’t be burned before using it and make sure there’s no surrounding wood or vegetation it could spread to.
When making your fire, stick will dry kindling and wood. Burning other materials such as plastic may release toxic fumes into the air, harming both yourself and other campers. Putting accelerants like gas or other flammable liquids in your fire is also a bad idea. Doing this will cause your fire to get out of control and may even cause an explosion.
Even if a fire is only built from safe materials, flying embers are a possibility and may be dangerous if you sit too close to the fire. In addition, smoke can be dangerous to your lungs, so it’s recommended to avoid breathing it in whenever possible.
Leaving a fire unattended is a recipe for disaster. Not only can your fire get out of control, it could also cause the start of a forest fire. Never leave a fire that’s still burning and never leave children unattended by the fire. When you’re done with the bonfire, extinguish it with water and wait until it’s completely gone. After dousing the flames, cover the pit with dirt to prevent any remaining sparks from being reignited.