We have seen and heard all too often the effects of the actions of lazy campers or irresponsible people not attending to their campfires in a proper manner. Hot and windy weather, lightning strikes and rogue trouble-makers make the job of fire-fighters hard enough as it is. So it’s paramount that us campers and travellers use common sense and be up to speed with safe practices when it comes to campfires and fireplaces.
The absolute No.1 rule is to know what the current fire restrictions are in your area. What is allowed and what’s NOT allowed or if a permit is required. For example open fires may be banned but gas flamed fires may still be ok. Sometimes ANY naked flame is ruled out altogether including gas bbq’s. So don’t risk the danger and don’t risk an expensive fine if you get caught doing the wrong thing.
A safe campfire is usually one that is enclosed in fireplace or fire ring. Home-made fire pits are great but are usually bulky and inconvenient to carry with you. My advice is that if there is an existing fireplace provided you use that. If you need to build a fire pit or campfire, choose a suitable and safe spot for it. Away from dense bush, low tree branches and of course a safe distance away from other campers and tents etc. Dig a small area out for your fire and surround it with bricks or rocks. Be mindful of winds and which way the flames, embers and smoke will be blowing- again use common sense. Rake the area where you will have your fire so it is clean from dry grass, leaves or other combustible debris.
When lighting your fire use a few firelighters or some crunched up newspaper. Don’t use lighter fluid or any other fuel to get the fire going- you are asking for trouble if something goes wrong.
Usually a campfire is needed for cooking purposes or just to keep warm. Perhaps some just like the ambience that a campfire provides. There is no need for huge fire that can easily get out of control. A small fire will be easier to manage, use less wood and have a much nicer bed of coals for cooking.
Make sure children and animals stay clear of the fire at all times. Educate your kids about fire safety. Never leave your fire unattended. Ever! When cooking on a campfire, make sure you use good quality cast iron equipment and long handled tongs. There is nothing worse than getting burnt and requiring medical treatment halfway through a holiday. For safety reasons make sure you keep a first aid kit amongst your camp gear and a fire extinguisher is ALWAYS a good piece of gear to carry. Keep a bucket of water handy just in case too.
Never throw plastic, bottles, aerosol cans, batteries or anything else explosive into the fire- We have seen this done before and the consequences weren’t pretty!
When you have finished with your fire don’t just let it “burn out”. Extinguish it PROPERLY. Stop fuelling the fire with any wood etc. and using a large stick or shovel spread the coals out to allow them to burn quicker and lets the heat out. If you have a shovel, try breaking down the coals into smaller pieces. Pour water over the coals and embers to extinguish any flames- when you no longer hear the “hissing” sound of the water on the coals you know it’s enough water. Be careful not to inhale any smoke when doing this. Stir the embers till they become cool.
Shovel dirt or sand over the area of the fire and mix it in with the coals. Continue to bury the fireplace with dirt or sand and ensure it’s no longer hot and can be touched by your hand.
This is very important as you don’t want anyone walking over it and severely burning themselves.
So keep safe this holiday season, be responsible and use common sense!
The best place to check regarding fire restrictions in your area is with the local National Parks office, fire station or police station. They will all be able to help you out and give you the information you need.
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