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Campfire Safety Guidelines
All it takes is one spark for things to go wrong.
A carelessly abandoned campfire or a campfire built without safe clearance can turn a small fire into a dangerous and fast-moving blaze. Be sure to build your campfire in a way that does not endanger anyone or the surrounding forest.
Check with local authorities on open-air burning restrictions and follow local burning regulations. Keep current on fire bans in the area.
Enjoy a safe campfire by following these campfire safety tips:
- NEVER build a campfire on a windy day—sparks or embers from the fire could travel quite a distance setting an unintentional fire
- Watch the wind direction to ensure sparks aren’t approaching any flammable materials
- Build the campfire where it will not spread; well away from tents, trailers, dry grass, leaves, overhanging tree branches, or any other combustible
- Build campfires in fire pits provided or on bare rock or sand, if no fire pit is provided
- Maintain a 6 to 10 foot clearance around your campfire
- Use crumpled paper and kindling to start a fire rather than flammable liquids
- NEVER use gasoline as an aid to starting a campfire
- Secure all lighters and matches and keep out of children’s reach
- Keep campfires to a small, manageable size no more than 3 feet in high and 3 feet in diameter
- DO NOT burn garbage in your campfire
- Keep all combustible materials, including flammable liquids, propane cylinders, and lighting fluid away from the campfire
- Stack extra wood upwind and away from the campfire so that sparks from the campfire cannot ignite your woodpile
- NEVER leave campfires unattended—ensure that a responsible adult is monitoring the campfire at all times
- Supervise children around campfires at all times and never allow horseplay near or involving the campfire, such as jumping over a campfire
- Teach children how to STOP, DROP, and ROLL should their clothing catch on fire
- Teach children to cool a burn with cool running water for 3 to 5 minutes
- Keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby to douse the fire when you’re done
- After carefully applying the water, stir the dampened coals and douse again with water
- As an added precaution, shovel sand or dirt to cover the dampened coals to smother any remaining embers
Be aware that as little as one second contact with a 158-degree F campfire can cause third degree, full thickness burns. The average campfire can get as hot as 932 degrees F in as little as three hours.
The majority of children are burned the morning after a fire from coming into contact with hot ashes or embers.
A campfire left to burn itself out or put out with sand only was still 212 degrees eight hours later. The buried coals and embers retain their heat underground like an oven. There is also a risk that the fire may spontaneously re-ignite. A child may mistake the pile of sand or dirt as a sand castle and attempt to play in it.
The temperature, less than four inches below the surface of the sand or dirt can be as high as 572 degrees F.
A campfire put out with water is reduced to 122 degrees F within 10 minutes of applying the water and reduced to 50 degrees F after eight hours. The safest way to extinguish a campfire is with water.
The above information is based on safety guidelines provided by Windsor (Ontario) Fire & Rescue Service.
How a Fire Burns
In order for fire to occur, four elements must be present:
Fuel (wood, paper, cloth, gas, oils, fiberglass)
Oxygen (air at between 17% and 19%)
Heat (brakes, engine compartment, exhaust system, transmission)
Chemical Chain Reaction (batteries, refrigerator)
If any one of these four components are missing, a fire cannot burn.
—Mac the Fire Guy
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