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Camp Fires: Safety is Key

UPDATED May 21, 2010

By WeatherBug Meteorologist, Patrick O'Hara


When families plan for summer vacations, one option that is often looked upon is going to the great outdoors to a campsite. Not only do families go camping, but so do other groups such as the scouts, church groups, and other groups looking for member activities. At any camping event, one of the very favorite things to do is to have a campfire.

Campfires are a very entertaining and wonderful way to spend time with friends and family when camping out. It is a great way to have fellowship with others when spending the weekend in the country.

A campfire can be a thrilling part of any camping trip, but it can also be very dangerous. This is why there are important rules to follow when building a campfire.

The most important rule to remember is that if the campfire becomes out of control, or even if an out of control fire is suspected, the first thing to do is to get everyone away and to safety. Most campsites or localities have laws or ordinances that govern camping and campfires. In some cases a permit may be required. The best thing to do is to check with the local authorities concerning fire restrictions that could be in place and the drought conditions.

In many cases, the weather can have an effect on a campfire, with wind and dry conditions often producing dangerous campfire conditions. Therefore, when building your campfire, there are important rules to follow to keep everyone safe and to prevent the spread of wildfires.

First, make sure the campfire is at least ten feet away from any trees and undergrowth. If the plants are extremely dry, they will act as kindling and spread your fire.

Never start a fire in a strong wind. The wind will blow the fire into other areas that could catch fire. Also, maintain at least a three feet clear area around the campfire free from dry leaves, pine needles, or dry grass. Never try to start or refresh a dying fire by pouring a liquid igniter. This is a good way to have an explosion.

Also remember that you should pitch the tent at least 15 feet and upwind from your campfire. Children should be supervised at all times around a fire. Clothes can easily catch fire, if not careful. That is why it is recommended that you should wear snug-fitting clothes, without the loose-hanging sleeves or pants legs. Everyone should know how to put out a clothing fire with stop, drop and roll.

Remember, extinguishing the campfire properly is also very important. Before going to sleep or leaving the campsite for any reason, make sure that it is completely out, including any glowing or burning coal or embers. The best way to start the extinguishing process is to let the fire burn down by itself. Then, drown the fire with water, making sure that all sticks, embers or coals are wet. Move any rocks to make sure no burning embers got in between or under any rocks. Mix the remains with dirt and water several times. Continue this process until all embers are cooled. Never bury your embers and coals. They could smolder and start a wild fire.

By remembering these tips, a memorable and enjoyable time will be created for your family while keeping the area safe for you and others on your vacation.

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