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July 12, 2021
Since the dawn of the caveman, humans have had a complicated relationship with fire. Our ape brains have learned (through trial and error) that as long as fire is in a small, contained area, it cannot cause much damage. However, we here at Wise Owl know that humans are also dumb, and make dumb decisions. Hence how wildfires are started, and also how everyone’s favorite shirtless forest creature was created - Smokey Bear.
While Mr. Bear can be seen at most national forests on old billboards, he can’t always be there for us to tell us that only we can prevent wildfires. So, there are a few rules about campfire safety that we need to know to ensure that Smokey doesn’t come to our house and kill us (or whatever he does as a punishment for making an unsafe fire). There are 6 general rules of campfire safety, as well as 5 general fire safety rules that we’re going to cover today. (We’ll also add in some great products to have around while you make your fire, so stick around for that!)
By the end of this, we’re sure that you’ll be so knowledgeable about fire safety that you could replace Smokey Bear as the national forest mascot. If that’s something you’d be into.
You may think that uppity hat-wearing mammals like Smokey Bear are totally blowing the dangers of fire out of proportion with all of their “mandatory rules” and “government regulations” or whatever. BUT…you’d be wrong. Because despite what we think, fire is never really in our full control. It spreads quickly, and is extremely difficult to contain once spread, especially in forest or camping settings.
Campfires are specifically dangerous for this very reason. A Campfire that isn’t built properly and not watched, maintained, and promptly extinguished has been the cause of over half of the wildfires that have caused massive damage to our beloved national forests. What’s more, nearly 85% of wildfires are started by humans, because we are stupid. So it’s important to know all about campfire safety before you start a fire in an area that is filled with flammable materials.
Alright, so there are more rules than 6 (if you ask that bureaucratic bear, that is) but these are the 6 most basic and most important rules you’ll need to follow in order to safely avoid a potential wildfire:
Before you start, ask yourself - can I even start a fire here? Ideally, this is something you should look up before you start to camp. Most campgrounds will have their campfire safety regulations displayed on their website, and if they don’t, there’s probably a helpline you can call. At some sites, you may only be able to start a fire in a fire pit, while in others you can make one yourself. Some may have a seasonal fire ban. Make sure you know before you go!
The second most important rule of campfire safety is to ensure that your surroundings are optimal for a fire. Is there a lot of wind today? Wind spreads fire dumb fast, yo. What about long branches? Those catch fire pretty easily. Are there any flammable items near the fire? Take an inventory of your surroundings before you start your fire. (Smokey has some tips and tricks for finding a good spot right here.)
If you’re not using a fire pit, you’ll need to know how to build one. First, you’ll want to circle your desired pit area with rocks, and completely clear your surroundings. Place all of your extra wood upwind, and far enough away from the fire that it doesn’t pose a risk. You’ll also want to have a shovel and a bucket of water nearby just in case!
Alright, you’re ready to start your glorious fire! Once you light your match, make sure that it actually goes into your fire pit. We hate to be so obvious, but this is actually one of the biggest rules of campfire safety that people overlook. Forgetting about your match can lead to some serious consequences!
Alright, if you are only going to remember one rule about campfire safety from this article, please let it be this one. This is the boss of all the other rules. Never, EVER leave your campfire unattended. Even if you have to go pee or something. Don’t do it. It sounds a little unnecessary but we promise it isn’t. This is how big fires start. If you need to leave, put it out! Speaking of which…
When you’re all done observing the wonders of fire, always put it out! Cover it with water, stir it up with a big stick until the water has spread evenly, then add even more water. Make sure the fire is totally out (and totally cold) before you head out. Still hot? More water!
And that’s that. Follow these rules and you won’t get on Smokey’s Kill List. Also, you’ll be super safe while camping!
Not camping anytime soon? You should (and you should check out our camping gear if you are)! But if you’re not, here are some indoor fire safety rules that you should know as well, while we’re on the subject:
Test your fire alarms at least once a month, and replace the batteries twice a year.
This can be done on your own or with your family/spouse/roommates! Figure out what you need to do, where you need to go, what important things you will take, and how long it will take you to get out of the house.
All it takes is knocking over one scented candle to burn a whole house down! When you’re leaving the room, put all the flames out!
If you can’t get one, know where one is in your apartment complex or workspace. To use it, remember “PASS”: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base of the flame, Squeeze the handle tightly, and Sweep back and forth.
Smokey wasn’t messing around when he said that only we could prevent wildfires. He’s totally right. And if you follow these rules on campfire safety, you absolutely will! If you enjoyed that, don’t forget to check out our awesome blog - for other interesting info and amazing camping gear, just check out our website!
Stay safe out there.
Contributing Writer: Aurora Detor
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