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7 Steps to Building a Fun and Safe Campfire

Campfires are fun and a great source of heat and light.  By following the proper steps to prepare and tend to your campfire it will provide safe enjoyment for many hours.

Since campfires char the ground, it is best to confine your fire to a fire pit, usually found in most campsites, or a designated fire “area”, usually created with rocks and away from low-hanging trees.  Most organized campsites you will visit have metal fire pits or rings just for this activity.  If they don’t you can create a fire pit, but first find out if it’s OK with the Ranger or Park Manager.  If it’s OK, following these 7 easy step:

1.    Find an area that is flat and away from trees or overhanging branches.

2.    Gather rocks to create a fire pit to keep the fire and ash contained.  Clean-up twigs, leaves and other debris up to 10 feet around the fire pit.

3.    If permitted, gather 3 types of firewood:
  • Tinder - dry pine needles, shredded bark, or wood shavings.  We’ll show you how to make a fuzz stick later on!
  • Kindling – dead twigs, small dry branches, no thicker than a pencil or pen.
  • Fuel – wood larger than kindling and about the size of your arm.  If you brought some firewood logs, this is when you can use them!
4.    Lay the fire – put the tinder in the middle of the fire pit, place plenty of kindling over the tinder.  Arrange small and medium-sized fuel wood in a tepee or log cabin shape.  I like the tepee shape!

5.    Strike a match and light the tinder and watch the fire grow!

6.    Keep adding fuel wood to the outside of your tepee as it burns.  You can add a few pieces to each side of the fire and it will burn for a long time.

7.    Putting out the campfire - After you have enjoyed your cozy fire it’s time to safely extinguish it.  Allow the fire to burn down to ash or small coals.  Pour water on the embers.  Be careful that rising smoke, ash and steam doesn’t get in your eyes!  Stir the wet ashes with a stick and pour more water on them.  The best test to know if your campfire is out, is when you can safely touch the coals with your bare hands!

Some campsites won’t let you gather wood and only allow camper-provided wood to be burned.  When I know I’m going to a campsite like this I usually stop by the grocery store and pick up a bundle of firewood.  At the campsite I can create kindling from the logs with a hatchet and use a small wad of newspaper or paper towel for the tinder.  The main thing to remember is to have fun with a campfire.  Cook smores, sing campfire songs, tell scary campfire stories and enjoy the warmth and coziness of a fire!

You can’t always choose the most ideal weather conditions on your family campout, but you can still have a warm, cozy campfire, even when it’s raining. 

How to create a Fuzz Stick

Wet Weather Campfire TIPS

  • With the first sign of rain, gather tinder and kindling for a couple of fires and store them under a plastic sheet or green garbage bag.  I always bring a couple of green garbage bags when we camp.  I usually find something useful and unique to do with them.  (In the section: "Staying Dry and Warm"  I tell you how to make a poncho).
  • You can also split wet wood with an axe or hatchet and reveal the dry, inside part of the wood, which will catch easily in a fire.
  • Keep matches safe from dampness by putting them in a plastic bag or plastic 35mm film canister.  My son likes to waterproof his matches by dunking the head of the match into a puddle of candle wax. 


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