Between the natural beauty and focused time together, few activities offer better opportunity for family bonding than a camping trip. Yet dry conditions, warm temperatures, and even a little lack of awareness or care can lead to another fire injury – the leading cause of camping-related injuries in children, and a primary catalyst for catastrophic forest fires.
So if you go camping, remember these tips from federal and state agencies:
Plan it well:
Before starting campfires, verify they’re allowed at that location, and select it carefully. A safe burning site will be far away from power lines, overhanging limbs, buildings, automobiles, equipment, rotten stumps, shrubs, dry grass and leaves. The fire will have a vertical clearance at least three times the height of the pile, as heat from the fire extends far past the actual flames that you see.
Check the weather forecast. Weather fluctuations, such as sudden gusts of wind, could make debris burning spark a wildfire.
The ground around the fire or burn site should be surrounded by gravel or mineral soil (dirt) for at least 10 feet in all directions. Keep the surrounding area watered down.
Keep the fire in a contained unit such as a burn barrel, barbecue unit, hibachi or a small pit with rocks around it. Building a fire directly on the ground can allow the fire to spread underground through root systems or decaying material.
Safely start and manage the fire:
When building a fire, start with dry twigs and small sticks. Add larger sticks as the fire builds up. Put the largest pieces of wood on last, pointing them toward the center of the fire, and gradually push them into the flames.
Never use flammable liquids to ignite or keep your fire burning. Avoid gasoline, diesel fuel, lighter fluid and other dangerous fuels.
After lighting the fire do not discard the match until it is cold. Douse it with water to be sure.
Keep campfires small and do not let them get out of hand
Stack extra firewood upwind, away from the fire.
Keep plenty of water nearby and have a shovel for throwing sand on the fire if it gets out of control.
Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could quickly cause the fire to spread.
Never allow children or pets near the fire and do not leave them unsupervised.
Teach kids how to stop, drop and roll if their clothing catches fire.
Have a fire extinguisher on hand for emergencies and teach children how to use it.
Finally, when it’s time to put it out, drown the fire with water (or dirt if water is unavailable). Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Mix plenty of soil and sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cooled. Do not bury your coals, they can smolder and start to burn again.
And please remember fireworks are NEVER allowed on public lands.
For more fire and camping safety tips see Fs.fed.us.
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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at Sholeh@cdapress.com.