Picture of wildland firefighters submitted by a California Firewise Community to Faith Berry
For the holiday weekend make sure that you take home good memories and don’t leave behind a wildfire. As you make plans to enjoy the holiday weekend with your family, make sure that you are aware of the local rules and weather restrictions in place before you light a campfire. Unattended or illegal campfires can cause serious wildfires like the one currently burning in Oroville, California that was started by someone who built an illegal campfire.
A highlight of the warmer season is roasting marshmallows and making those old favorites s’mores around the campfire. What wonderful memories can be created with family members and friends. It is important to keep those memories pleasant by following some safety tips:
- Make sure you get a permit. At certain times of the year such as during fire season and in certain municipalities, campfires may not be allowed. Some places require that you use designated fire rings. Be sure to follow your local guidelines.
- To build a campfire, select a level, shaded location away from heavy fuels such as logs, tents and other flammable materials like overhanging branches, brush or decaying leaves and needles. Permitted recreational fires such as campfires, need to be at least 25 feet (8 meters) away from anything that can burn. Permitted open fires, such as bonfires or trash fires, need to be at least 50 feet (15 meters) from anything that can burn.
- Some campsites may have designated fire pits these should be used. If allowed in the area, use a shovel to clear an area at least 10 feet in diameter around the fire ring (local regulations may vary). Scrape away grass, leaves or needles down to the mineral soil.
- Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area on which to build the fire and place a ring of rocks around it.
- Cut wood in short lengths, pile within the cleared area and light the fire. The fire should be built low, tall raging campfires can create large amounts of burning embers. Never use an accelerant such as gasoline to start the fire. Never use large amounts of paper in your fire or to start the fire.
- When burning, have a hose, a bucket of water, or shovel and dirt or sand nearby to extinguish the fire.
- Fire must be left unattended and the fire must be extinguished completely before everyone leaves camp. Children should always be supervised around a campfire.
In order to properly extinguish your campfire:
- Fill a bucket with water and pour it on the campfire while completely stirring and wetting all the ashes. Turn wood and coals over and wet all sides.
- Move some of the dirt immediately adjacent to the fire into the fire and mix thoroughly.
- Feel with your hand all around the fire to be sure nothing is still smoldering.
Always follow safety measures so that you leave with a pocket full of good memories. Leaving a campfire unattended is a violation of Federal Law (36 CFR 261.5) and is punishable by a fine of $225 to $5,000 and as many as six months in jail. You could also be held liable for fire suppression costs if a campfire that you started got out of control and started a wildfire. Have fun and also be safe! For more campfire safety information download the attached NFPA tip sheet.