Remember the Importance of Fire Safety While Camping

Remember the Importance of Fire Safety While Camping

Most wildfires start with a spark, and many of those sparks are caused by people.  As summer approaches, and we prepare for spending some quality time in the great outdoors, it's important to be mindful of fire prevention.  Let's take a look at a few things to consider in order to keep the risk of fire to a minimum while camping or hiking.


Pay Attention to the Weather

We all enjoy the warm, dry weather that summer brings, but this is also the time of the year when fire danger is the highest.  Wind is another major contributor to wildfires as even the smallest of embers can be transported over long distances.  The good news is that there are many different fires that you can build that are designed for these conditions.  However, it's important to plan ahead and know how to adapt once you get on site, and looking at the weather forecast is the best way to prepare accordingly.


Extinguish Embers

Embers can continue to burn, sometimes for days, after being covered with dirt or mixed with ash.  I was reminded of this recently when our ash bucket was still burning three days after it was filled with the remnants of our last fireplace fire.  We went out of town for the weekend, and when we came back the bucket was red hot and smoldering.  We thought that the embers were extinguished and that the ash would keep oxygen from fueling any remaining hot spots.  We were wrong, and we were also lucky. 


While the bucket was situated a few feet away from any structures, the winds were very high while we were gone, and some of the contents were carried and deposited next to the house and near some dried wood that was on the other side of the yard.  Always remember that embers may look like they're extinguished or unable to burn if buried, but it only takes a small hot spot to keep the process of combustion going. 


The best thing to do when trying to extinguish fires is to spread the embers and ashes over a wide area away from combustible material.  Cover them with a generous amount of water, dirt, ash or sand, and try to break up the larger pieces.  This will cause them to burn out more quickly while minimizing the chances of hot embers from igniting other remnants of the fire.  Most importantly, never leave the site unattended until you know that the embers have been extinguished.


Be Careful With Cigarettes

A lot of people don't consider the risk of fire from discarded cigarettes or cigars that have not been fully-extinguished.  This is particularly true when campers from wetter parts of the country camp in locations that are arid.  Don't toss butts out the window while driving, don't flick them into the area surrounding the campsite, and make sure that butts are completely extinguished, buried or discarded appropriately before leaving the area as well.  Careless smoking has caused just as many wildfires as lightning or campfires.


Have Water or Dirt Handy

Finally, try to keep some dirt or water handy just in case you need to quickly douse a fire.  Since fires can spread at a phenomenal rate, you may not have time to fetch water or shovel dirt or sand.  While the emergency supply you have on hand may not be enough to completely-extinguish the fire, it can buy you some time in order to gather material to finish putting it out.


Take time to consider these and other things that you can do to minimize the risk of fire while you're hiking or camping.  The more you do now can go a long way to ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable time in the outdoors.