Nothing inspires nostalgia like a campfire. So many of us grew up with fond memories of spinning yarns over crackling flames. In fact, the idea of setting up a classic campfire is so exciting, campfire safety can seem like an afterthought. However, this wide brown land of ours is – more than ever – prone to destructive bushfires. Bushfires destroy homes, kill native flora and fauna and sadly, often threaten human lives. Consequently, campfire safety is critical.
Fire is simultaneously humanity’s best friend and oldest foe. While campfires are fun and can keep you warm on a freezing night, they can also be deadly. Sadly, campfire mishaps have caused many life-threatening bushfires over the years. So, if you’ve planned a great Australian roadtrip and want to enjoy campfires along the way, here are some of our best campfire safety tips.
1. Campfire safety starts before you light up
Unfortunately, it’s not always safe (or legal) to light a campfire. Always check the website of the relevant fire service for fire bans. When a ban is in place, campfires are strictly prohibited. You risk serious fines and even jail if you choose to ignore a total fire ban. This applies even if you’re lighting a fire in a designated firepit. The bottom line is, there’s no safe campfire during a total fire ban.
In addition to outright bans, local fire services typically provide a fire danger rating, such as moderate, high or catastrophic. You may see signs listing the fire danger when you enter a new area.
If the fire danger is rated between very high and catastrophic, it’s safest not to light a campfire. The same goes for very dry, windy weather. These conditions can reduce the effectiveness of campfire safety measures. Of course, if conditions are favourable it’s ok to light a fire. However, there are several things you can do to make it even safer.
2. Choose the right spot
If you’ve ever lit a campfire, you know that some vegetation is extremely flammable. Avoid building your fire near any vegetation you would typically use as tinder or kindling. Some campgrounds and holiday parks provide a designated firepit. However, if there isn’t one, you’ll need to find a nice clear spot to build one. Your makeshift firepit should free of foliage, branches and leaves. It should also be at least three metres from tents, trees and other potentially flammable items. To prevent embers escaping, dig a trench and border your campfire with large rocks.
3. Campfire care and maintenance
Once you’ve built your fire in a safe spot, it’s time to maintain it and ensure it doesn’t become a hazard. The number one rule of campfire safety is this: keep an eye on your campfire! Fires should never be left unsupervised, for any length of time. It only takes minutes for a fire to spread and become unmanageable.
As you fuel your fire, only add dead, dry wood. Using living or green branches will create a lot of smoke, and is bad for the environment to boot. Stick to dry, dead twigs and branches.
It goes without saying that you should be extra careful with fuel, gas bottles and other flammable items around campfires. It’s best to put such items away before you build your fire. However, did you know that glass will melt and potentially explode if placed over a fire? Unopened tins can also explode, so open them up to avoid injury.
Finally, make sure you extinguish your fire at night. Leaving your fire unsupervised while you sleep risks bushfires. Plus, the embers will be still hot in the morning, and can burn people (including curious kids).
4. Don’t walk away until the fire is out
Many bushfires start from embers. Make sure you completely extinguish your fire using water before you leave the campsite. Unfortunately, soil doesn’t always extinguish fire, as fires can stay hot underneath for over eight hours. This not only creates a fire hazard, but could burn others if they accidentally walk over your fire pit.
Finally, to report a bushfire, call 000 (in Australia). Our hard-working emergency services will be on the scene as soon as possible. If you follow these four simple campfire safety tips, you’ll significantly reduce the risk of starting a bushfire. Happy camping!
Are you looking for campgrounds and holiday parks where campfires are allowed? Campstay can help – just use our handy “firepits” filter. To find and book holiday parks and campground, check out our website here, or download our android / itunes app. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.