Campfire Safety

Integrated Fire SystemsFire & Life Safety Updates

Make Sure You Are Safe This Summer!

campfireSummer is almost here and camping season is officially upon us! One of the best things about summer is being able to sit around a campfire, roasting s’mores, and telling stories. But, these great summer moments have the potential to turn into dangerous fire and life safety situations.

Before going camping make sure that you know how to choose a spot for, build, maintain, and extinguish a camp fire.

Choosing a Spot

When building a campfire it is important to first make sure that fires are permitted in your area. NFPA recommends that you, “check with your local fire department”. Smokey Bear recommends that you check with your campground to make sure that they allow them on their property.

Second, if campfires are allowed, make sure the weather conditions are right. You should not start a camp fire in dry conditions.

Third, you must decide where you are going to build your campfire. If your campsite has an existing fire ring or pit, this will be your perfect spot. If you are not at a campsite or if your campsite does not have a designated spot for your fire you will need to dig a pit. Smoke Bear recommends that you check to make sure you can dig a pit because, “sometimes digging of pits may be prohibited due to archaeological or other concerns”.

When setting up camp it is important to make sure that your camp fire will be at least “15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees, or other flammable objects”. Smokey Bear also wants you to beware of low-hanging branches and to stay away from “heavy fuels such as logs, brush, or decaying leaves”.


Once you have your perfect campfire spot chosen, you can now begin to build your camp fire.

If there is not already a designated pit made Smokey Bear suggests that you:

  • Clear a 10-foot-diameter area around the site. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves, and firewood.
  • Dig a pit in the dirt, about a foot deep.
  • Circle the pit with rocks.

When your fire pit is ready to go you can now build your fire. First, you should make sure that you have a water source and shovel near you at all times. This will ensure that you will be able to quickly extinguish the fire if it begins to get out of hand.

Second, Smokey Bear says you will need to have three different types of wood to start and maintain your fire:

  • Tinder – Small twigs and dry leaves, grass and needles.
  • Kindling – Sticks smaller than 1” around.
  • Fuel – Larger pieces of wood. Keep these stacked upwind, away from the fire.

You should never cut down a tree while you are camping to get your fire wood. Live trees will not burn and dead trees are still an active part of nature’s ecosystems.

Third, start building your fire by taking a pile of tinder and placing it in your fire pit. Then ignite your tinder by using a lighter or match. As the fire grows, continue to add tinder. Then lightly blow at the base of the fire to provide it with oxygen.

Lastly, you can now add kindling to begin to grow your fire. Once the kindling catches you can add the larger pieces of wood to add fuel. This will allow your fire to keep burning steadily.


Once you have a campfire started, it is important to maintain it with care and caution. In order to do this, NFPA recommends that you:

  • Watch children while the fire is burning. Never let children or pets play or stand too close to the fire.
  • Attend to the campfire at all times. A campfire left alone for only a few minutes can grow into a damaging fire.
  • Keep a fire small which is easier to control.
  • Never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids.

Before going to sleep for the night, it is important that you fully extinguish your campfire. To do this, you should first make sure that all of the wood has burned down to ash.

Then, Smokey Bear says to “pour lots of water on the fire. Drown ALL embers, not just the red ones. Pour until the hissing stops”. If you do not have water to extinguish your fire, you will need to use a shovel to stir around the dirt and/or sand to bury the embers. No matter if you use water or a shovel to put out your fire, you should not have any embers exposed that are smoldering.

“If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave” – Smokey Bear

Make sure that the fire has completely cooled before going to bed. In order to ensure this, you may have to repeat watering and stirring the fire a few times.

-The IFS Team