Due to the recent destructive fires in the Amazon, Camping Plus thought it would be useful to deliver a beginner’s guide to campfire safety and rules. We will cover: how to build a safe campfire, the basic campfire rules, how to put out and clean up your fire, hazards around the campsite, and campfire safety for kids. Improving knowledge of campfire safety will help to prevent any further devastating fires being accidentally lit and devastating our natural environment.
Prior to lighting a fire
Before you light a fire in the bush, there a few things you should consider first, such as the weather conditions:
- the weather conditions in your camping area, you should not light or maintain a campfire on dry, windy days;
- do no light or maintain a campfire when the Fire Danger Rating (FDR) is very high, severe, extreme, or catastrophic;
- do not light a campfire during a Total Fire Ban (TFB). When a TFB is declared it is illegal to do anything that is likely to start a fire which includes cooking outside using an open fire. You could be fined up to $25,000 or jailed for 12 months or both if you ignore the TFB.
You can check the current Queensland fire danger ratings at the Bureau of Meteorology.
Tips to build a safe fire
As well as considering issues with the environment and your surroundings before lighting a campfire, you should also consider how to build a fire that is safe, which can be done by:
- choosing to light your campfire in a safe location that is clear of flammable vegetation such as long grass and spinifex;
- use a previously built fireplace where provided or dig a 30 centimetre deep trench to house the fire and prevent embers from flying out into the surrounding environment;
- if a pre-made fireplace is not available, create a border around the fire using large rocks;
- light the campfire in a cleared area;
- remove branches, leaves and twigs from the ground and above the flames to create a clearing of at least three metres around the fire;
- make sure that the fire is three metres away from any tents or other camping equipment;
- make sure any other items are stored well away from the campfire, especially flammable items such as gas cylinders and fuel cans;
- never use flammable liquid or fuel such as petrol or diesel on a fire even when you are trying to get the fire started;
- you should take the same safety precautions when using appliances with naked flames such as gas stoves and gas lanterns, as they can be blown over by wind and cause fires.
Keeping your fire going strong and safe
After you’ve lit a responsible fire in a responsible location, here are a few tips to help you keep the campfire going strong, in a safe, and sustainable way:
- keep your fire just big enough for cooking and to keep warm, don’t allow it to become overly large;
- never leave your fire unattended. Put your fire out properly with water not soil, even if just leaving the fire for a short period of time;
- extinguish your fire when you go to bed. Many kids are burnt by campfires in the morning from hot ashes and embers, so this is good practice to ensure campfire safety for kids;
- kids and pets should be supervised always when near a fire;
- use only fallen, dead wood, don’t use fresh branches or leaves from living trees as this will damage the environment and can cause high levels of smoke; and
- keep a bucket of water nearby to put out any rampant fire.
Putting your fire out responsibly
When you’re finished enjoying your responsibly placed and maintained campfire, don’t forget to ensure that you put the campfire out properly:
- ensure that your fire is completely extinguished using water; and
- do not use soil to put out your fire as fires can still smoulder under soil and can stay hot for up to eight hours. Leaving a fire covered by dirt is a danger to anyone walking in the area once you have gone as they won’t be able to see the embers.
Some major campfire rules to abide by are as follows:
- do not burn dangerous or flammable items inside your campfire, such as aerosol cans as they can explode;
- cans and other aluminium products do not burn very well, so don’t put them in your campfire;
- never put glass in your campfire as it will melt and may shatter or explode which could injure people nearby;
- never put unopened tins of food on a fire to cook as they may explode and cause injuries; and
- Call Triple Zero (000) to report any out of control fires.
Now that you’ve read Camping Plus’s guidance on how to build a safe campfire and are up to date on the basic campfire rules, you’ll be able to inform others of the importance of campfire safety for kids and adults. Improving knowledge of campfire safety should help to prevent any further devastating fires being accidentally lit and can preserve the natural environment.