Tips for Putting Your Campfire Out Safely

by Dennis Kim

Photo Credit: Benjamin Deyoung

Having a campfire is one of the best parts of camping. It’s where some of the best memories are made with friends and family. With this quintessential part of camping, comes a responsibility to put fires out correctly.

Leaving your campsite or going to sleep before extinguishing your fire properly can quickly lead to forest fires, which puts forests, animals and other people in danger. If you’re a regular camper, you’ll know the importance of putting your campfire out safely. In this step-by-step guide, we explain how you can keep your campsite safe and enjoy the luxury of having a fire.

When it comes to fire safety, you first need to build a fire safely. There are a few precautions you should take before starting your campfire:

Check the weather

If the weather is especially dry or windy, save building a fire for another time. Dry leaves and shrubs can quickly ignite with even the smallest contact with embers and strong winds can blow sparks to other locations.

Find the right location

Most camp spots come with built-in fire pits that provide the right amount of shelter and prevent the flames from spreading. However, you can bring your own fire pit to contain the coals and set it up in a safe location. Your site should be sheltered from the wind and have at least 10 feet of clearance above and around the site. Make sure to clear away any debris and leaves and place rocks around your fire pit.

Get the proper equipment

In order to put out your fire, you need the right equipment. Always have two buckets or objects that can hold water close by so you can extinguish the flames. Another fire essential is a shovel so you can stir the coals and add dirt onto the campfire. The best materials to use for smothering a fire are water, sand and dirt.

How to put your campfire out safely

Step 1: Wait until the flames burn down

Before retiring to your tent or leaving the campsite, give your fire time to burn down the last of the firewood and coals.

Step 2: Spread the coals

With a shovel, make sure to spread the coals around as much as possible in the fire pit. Doing this will help them cool down faster due to increased airflow.

Step 3: Cover your fire

Whether you’re using water, dirt or sand, make sure to cover the embers and surrounding area with dousing materials. The amount of materials you need depends on the size of your fire, but a good rule of thumb is at least two buckets-worth.

Step 4: Stir the remaining embers and ash

With a long stick or shovel, stir the remaining ash around. If you notice there are large logs leftover, rotate and scrape the embers away from unburnt areas. Before leaving, make sure to check your campsite one last time and splash extra water over the fire pit as an added safety precaution.

The takeaway

Never wait until you’re ready to leave to put out your campfire. Start the extinguishing process as soon as you start to pack up camp. It takes time for coals to cool down even when the weather is colder. The best thing you can do is be aware and help prevent a forest fire, so you can make the most of your time in the great outdoors.

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