You probably think you know all there is to know about campfire safety by now. You went to boy/girl scouts and/or to summer camp as a kid, you already heard the talk from a guidance counselor about what precautions to take when building a fire in the wild.

But think again. This was back when you were young and free, and you weren’t solely responsible for your own safety. Now you are an adult and you could use some refresher tips about how to avoid injury to yourself and your family and friends, as well as preventing damage to wildlife and the environment.

  • First of all, check the weather report. If there is a warning that the weather will be hot, dry, and windy, avoid building an open fire.
  • Do not build a fire where it is explicitly prohibited. Do not dig a pit in areas that are prohibited for digging for archeological or other reasons.
  • Give precedence to the use of an existing campfire site, where you have ready-made rings/pits for your use and cleared ground.
  • If no campfire site is available, when preparing your own, find a spot that is downwind. Make sure to keep a distance of at least 15 ft. from tents, buildings, woodland and overhead branches. Keep a 10 ft. diameter of cleared ground or bare rock around your campfire; if necessary scrape the ground from weeds and burnable material. Circle your pit with rocks.
  • Keep your fire reasonably sized. Its diameter should be about 4 ft. and no higher than 3 feet. Do not use flammable liquids to ignite the fire. Make sure to dispose of the match you lit in the fire after it has cooled down.
  • Do not leave your fire unattended for even a moment for any reason.
  • Use only coal and wood as burning material. Do not cut or rip branches off living trees. Use small branches of dry wood or needles as tinder for your fire.
  • Make sure you have enough water for dousing the fire and a shovel at hand for your immediate use. When dousing the fire, the coal/firewood should be thoroughly soaked and afterward you should stir it with your shovel and water again. Stay for an extra 15 minutes to ensure the fire is completely out, that is, when the ashes no longer hiss and steam.
  • If the fire hasn’t died out after dousing, use dirt you have dug up.
  • If there are kids and/or pets with you, make sure they are not left unsupervised next to the fire. Don’t let kids gain access to matches. Teach them to adhere to the rules above, and to report any out of control fire they see to an adult.
  • For cooking, it is preferable to use a small stove. If using a cooking pot, make sure to dig a pit for your fire.

Remember, it is most important to stop wildfire. According to recent data, the majority of wildland fires in the USA are caused by humans, such as a fire which started in an illegal campfire that  burnt down 400 square acres in Yosemite Park, causing an estimated $54 million in damages. Taking these precautions will make sure you can enjoy the outdoor experience without taking any unnecessary risks.