How to Keep a Safe Camp Fire
Knowing How to Keep a Safe Camp Fire is one of the most important outdoor skills you can have. The camp fire is many people’s favorite part of camping. Many survival and outdoor enthusiasts concentrate only on the art of starting a fire, but what do you do after you have one started? It is scientifically proven that humans are attracted to fire, and research shows that stress levels can go down while watching a fire in action. Just make sure before you set your next camp fire you have all your fire safety bases covered.
List of Safe Camp Fire Basics
- Check all around your fire pit, and make sure you LOOK UP! Any flammable vegetation near the fire ring, or low trees or branches above are dangers. Don’t forget your fire WILL spit sparks and embers and these can travel quite a ways before being extinguished. Make your fire as far away from flammable things as possible.
- In the same way you should keep your fire far away from things, keep your things far away from the fire. It is recommended to keep your tent, clothing, food, and other goods a minimum of 12 feet away from the fire pit. I usually keep mine further.
- Wind is your enemy when it comes to fire. If it is an extremely windy day, don’t start a fire.
- Keep your fire contained in a fire ring, container, or a fire mound.
- Use a long stick or shovel to control your fire.
- The bigger the log, the longer it burns. If you need to put out a fire to leave or to go to sleep it is a good idea to burn only small to medium pieces of wood. These will burn out quicker, and turn to ash quick enough for you to extinguish easily.
- Only burn dead fallen wood. Burning live wood is bad for the environment, and can create lots of dangerous smoke.
- If you don’t know what it is, don’t burn it. There is a very famous story of a party of explorers that were camping in Africa. They needed to get a fire going quickly so they grabbed some dead bushes that were scattered around the site. They all had a great night around the fire. The next day all of them were found dead from inhaling the poison gases contained in the bushes they burned. Some plants are dangerous and should not be burned!!
Safe Camp Fire and Kids
Here is a crazy statistic Research shows that greater than 80% of pediatric campfire injuries are from day-old campfires. (Warning: The links in this blog post connect not only to information but also to images of burns, which may be disturbing to some readers).
This is something very important to keep in mind. Even when there are no flames and no apparent smoke coming from a fire it is still a burn hazard.
Here is my number 1 tip for keeping kids safe around Camp Fires.
Talk to your kids about the danger first before you ever even light the flame. Show them where the fire will be, and setup an area far away from the fire where they are designated to play. Even if you have had the talk with them more than once, remind them again every time you camp!
List of Safe Camp Fire Tips for Children
- Have a talk about fire safety before you start any fires.
- Designate a play area where kids need to stay that is far from fire.
- If your family is playing any games, especially those involving throwing balls or flying objects find a place a good distance from the fire pit.
- If you are allowing your kids to cook over the fire give them your full attention. Often we make S’mores or Hot Dogs on sticks over the fire. My wife or myself always make sure that only one of us is eating at a time. This allows us to give our full attention to the kids without being distracted by the delicious food stuffs.
- Do not allow children to move any burning objects away from the fire. I know it is super fun to catch sticks on fire and run around in the dark of night, but research shows another large percentage of burns to children were from burning objects pulled away from the camp fire.
- Make sure your fire is completely out. As stated above 80% of kids burned by fires are burned by a fire thought to be extinguished.
Camp Fire Fashion
When it comes to a Safe Camp Fire what you wear matters! We aren’t talking about how the colors reflect the dancing flames in a way that accentuates your strongest features here either. Some fabrics are known to be extremely flammable and should not be worn near a fire. This includes Fleece and Polyester Fabrics.
Fleece and Polyester fabrics are known to be extremely flammable! This is important because many children’s pajamas are made out of these fabrics. The pajamas many kids are wearing while they stand around the camp fire.
Find something for your kids and yourself to wear that is not easily flammable. There are also pajamas and clothes designed specifically to be flame retardant. These fire proof wears might be your best bet when you know you are headed out camping.
Don’t Throw Fuel on the Fire
A Safe Camp Fire is one that you can control. There is seldom a reason to throw anything except wood on your fire. Burning trash, especially papers and metals covered in dye is horrible for the environment and for anyone near the smoke! There are somethings that may prove to be even more immediately dangerous. Here is a list of things you should never throw in the fire.
- Gas or Fuel
To keep a Safe Camp Fire, never throw anything except wood in the flames. Numbers 1-4 are very likely to cause an explosion which can throw shrapnel, embers, and flames all around the fire. Batteries are known to explode violently, and I have a friend who was nearly killed by a battery thrown in a camp fire during High School.
Number 5 is a danger I see all the time. I like the challenge of starting a fire with minimum tools and kindling, but some people just want a fire as quickly as possible. These same people often want a fire as BIG as possible as well.
One easy way to get a BIG & QUICK fire going is to use fuel. This is very dangerous however. As I am sure most of you are aware fire can actually follow the fuel up into the canister exploding it with incredible force. This essentially means you have created a bomb which will throw flames in all directions around your camp site.
I never recommend using fuel unless you are in a survival situation where the wood is wet and will not catch. I this case you would soak the wood in some fuel before lighting it with a flame. Never attempt this if you are inexperienced. I never recommend throwing fuel on an already burning flame.
Make Sure You Pop the Top
HERE IS ANOTHER SITUATION THAT INJURES PEOPLE MUCH MORE THAN YOU WOULD PROBABLY IMAGINE
If you are like me, you probably cook canned foods often while camping. A Safe Camp Fire is a great cooking tool. My family loves Baked Beans and Corn while we are camping. We often open up the can and cook the food right on the fire. This is not extremely dangerous, unless you forget to use a tool or glove to grab it off the fire.
Here is the kicker though. Many people don’t think to open the can. Often people but an unopened can of food right on the flame without opening the top. This may seem like common sense, but just take heed. A unopend boiling can of food will explode at some point because the heat and energy need to escape somehow.
Make sure you always open cans of food before cooking them.