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Campfire Safety
Fire Education Stories

Fire Education and Campfire safety are as important as knowing how to build a fire. The more time I’ve spent camping, the more burns from campfires that I end up seeing. These burns have been from minor to quite serious. Caused from goofing around at the campfire, to lack of safety precautions.

Campfires are a vital part of any camping trip, however they can be dangerous, and campfire safety is very important. I will explain some of the lessons with a short story of an accident. Some of these things may seem very common sense. I mention them because common sense isn’t always that common and I have seen people I thought were smart do incredibly stupid things. It is always easier to remember something with a story.

I have seen first-hand what campfires can do. The injuries are serious and could even be lethal.

Fire Education Story #1

· On a canoe trip in Quetico Provincial Park, I came across another canoe group. One of the campers had been boiling water on a campfire or cook stove and was wearing sandals. The water had fallen off, and spilled all over his foot. There was a HUGE blister from the burn (2nd or 3rd degree). This blister was 1 inch thick, and covered the whole top of the foot. This burn meant that they had to finish their trip early, AND pay for medical care in Canada (they were American). You do not want to end your trip at the hospital.

o Campfire Safety LESSON?

§ Wear closed topped shoes when cooking around a campfire or stove.

Fire Education Story #2

· I was car camping with a bunch of friends at a campground in Ontario. Everyone was having a great time- it was a camping party after all which meant lots of rowdiness, drinking and fun. One friend of mine had a great night, yet the next morning, woke up in pain (and not from the alcohol). He had burned his leg on the grill of the campfire, but hadn’t noticed when he had burned his leg as he wasn’t as coherent as he might have been if he was more sober.

o Campfire Safety LESSON?

§ Do not drink excessively around campfires (much more serious accidents can happen this way)

Fire Education Story #3

· At the same camping party trip mentioned above, someone thought that it would be fun to bring fireworks and light them in the fire. They shot in many directions eventually stopping, and colouring the fire many different colours.

o Campfire Safety LESSON?

§ Do not mix campfires and fireworks

(there are products that you can use that make the fire turn many colours by putting on different powdered elements in a packet – a safer, more fun alternative).

Fire Education Story #4

· I was on a camping trip, and cooking over a campfire (our stove was broken), and I brought rice with one of our meals. In order to prevent the rice from burning and having a disgusting meal, I slaved over the campfire. The fire was hotter than I thought it was and by the end, I had singed my eyelashes, eyebrows and some of my hair.

o Campfire Safety LESSON?

§ Some foods are not meant to be cooked over a campfire.

§ Wait until the fire is cooler to cook.

§ Be careful of hair when around a campfire.

Fire Education Story #5

· I was preparing our camp-stove to cook supper. It seemed it was taking an extra amount of pumping to get pressurized, but I didn’t think twice (perhaps I had assumed it was because sometimes they need more pumping if the fuel is low). I continued to pump more, until there was some pressure. Then I lit the stove. The whole stove lit on fire, with pressure and fuel spraying fuel and fire out. I couldn’t turn the stove off, as there was a leak and the off switch was right near the fire. I backed away and then threw our bucket of cooking water on the stove and luckily the fire went out.

o Campfire Safety LESSON?

§ Keep a bucket of something that can put out a fire nearby- a bucket or pot of water, a bucket of sand.

§ Be coherent of changes in your stove functioning.

§ Make sure that your equipment is functioning properly. Check seals and o-rings for cracks on your stove if your stove hasn’t been used recently.

Fire Education Story #6

· As a child, I remember lighting marshmallows on fire, and then swinging the marshmallow stick until the fire goes out. I’ve seen other people use this method as well. However I have seen flying flaming marshmallows , which have landed on the ground, on other people, and near misses to people’s hair.

o Campfire Safety LESSON?

§ Do not shake, fling or wave flaming marshmallows.

Fire Education Story #7

· I was camping with a group of people and they weren’t very good at lighting a fire. One guy thought he’d be impressive and start a fire with sparks only. I sat back to be entertained. Next thing I knew, one of them decided to pour camp fuel onto the fire, the spark guy then lit a spark (that hadn’t been doing anything up to that point), and a HUGE fire erupted! And Mr. Spark jumped back. All the hairs on his arm were singed!

o Campfire Safety LESSON?

§ Do not use liquid camp fuel on fires (or gasoline, or oil or flammable liquid).

Some other good tips that don’t have stories:

· When taking a grill off the fire, do not lay it flat on the ground. It will cool down a little, so it’s not red hot, but then someone can step on a hot grill. Lean the hot grill against the fire pit so that it can’t tip over and it won’t be stepped on.

· Do not run around the campfire area.

· Make sure children and pets are supervised closely around campfires.

· Do not leave your campfire unattended. You do not want to be the cause of a huge forest fire.

· Keep your fire a controllable size. If it is too large, it can easily get out of hand.

· Be cognizant of the wind direction and strength of wind (it can carry sparks and start a forest fire)

· Be aware of Fire bans in a park and the dry-ness of the surrounding area.

·Acquire a fire permit if it is needed in the park.

· Do not burn :

o Plastics- the fumes are toxic.

o Aerosol cans, they might explode.

o Glass- it doesn’t disappear, just creates smaller glass shards

o Aluminum- the fumes are toxic, and it doesn’t disappear, just breaks down into smaller pieces.(same with aluminum foil)

Fire Education : Making your own campfire pit:

· When building a campfire, chose the location on the campsite where there have been previous fires. If there is no such location, and fires are allowed, build your campfire pit on bare rock, or sand. Be careful of building on bedrock. Unless you know the area and rock types, some bedrocks can explode if fires are built on them, and also the rock may have very small fractures that may create a fire far from where you are located – underground transmission.

· Clear away any remaining plants or vegetation (including roots).

· Build it at least 5 metres / 15 feet away from trees, bushes, tree roots, your tent or anything else that is flammable. Be aware of low hanging branches.

· Collect several good sized rocks for a fire ring.

Putting out your fire:

· When putting out a campfire, use pots or buckets to collect water. Douse the fire the hissing sounds stops and until the coals or rocks are cold enough to touch. Make sure to stir up the ashes and flip the logs over to fully ensure the fire is out. Unless you are confident that you can pick up the coals with your hand, the fire is not out enough. Even a small amount of heat, or a small bit of coal can start up another fire.

If you are on fire. Do not run. STOP, DROP and ROLL.

REMEMBER. Only You can Prevent Forest Fires! – Smokey Bear.

Other pages that might be of interest to you:

How to building a camp fire

Waterproofing your matches

Campfire recipes

Return from Campfire Safety and Fire Education Stories to Camping Expert (home)

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