Wildfire prevention and safety

Having a safe campfire

Campfires are a summer tradition northerners love. But every year, they cause wildfires that never needed to happen because they weren’t done safely. Here’s how to keep your campfire safe.

Before the campfire

  • Always check to ensure there aren’t any local fire restrictions in the area. During periods of high fire danger, campfires may not be allowed.
  • If it’s hot and dry or windy, it’s best not to build a campfire unless it’s absolutely necessary – like for warmth or food. Check the fire danger in your area to help decide whether a campfire is a good idea.
  • Make sure you have a shovel, a bucket, and a stick before you go.

Picking a spot

First, find out if there are already fire pits or rings where you are hanging out or camping. If there is, it’s always best to use those.

If there isn’t a fire pit and fires are allowed, follow these steps to pick a good campfire spot

  • Pick a place that’s at least five metres from tents, shrubs, trees, low-hanging branches, or anything else that can burn.
  • Make sure your spot is as open and level as possible – and set it up as far away from things that burn quickly like logs, brush, or dry leaves.
  • Choose a place that’s protected against gusts of wind.

Building your firepit

If you’re building your own fire pit, follow these important safety tips.

  • Clear a three-metre area of all twigs, leaves, and firewood.
  • Dig a pit about one foot deep in the ground.
  • Surround it with rocks or built-up sand that’s at least one foot high

Having your campfire

Now’s the fun part – but that fun comes with real responsibility.

  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Only make as big a fire as you need. Smaller fires are better for cooking – and less likely to get out of control.
  • Don’t use aerosols on the fire – they can explode and cause embers to catch trees and cause wildfires.
  • Keep an eye on flying embers to make sure they don’t cause other things to ignite.

Putting out your campfire

Now’s the really important part. Use the SOAK, STIR, SOAK method.

  • Soak: douse your fire with a lot of water. Make sure to get all the embers – not just the red ones.
  • Stir: use a stick to stir the leftover coals, wood, and embers to expose anything that hasn’t been put out.
  • Soak: douse your fire again.
  • Repeat: keep doing it until you think your fire is out.
  • Test: use your hand to feel the air above where the fire was. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to stop – so repeat again until it’s cool to the touch.
  • Pack up: once it’s out, pack everything you packed in back out to keep the land and water healthy.

If you don’t have access to water: replace it with sand or dirt without any leaves, brush, or other things that burn and follow the same steps.