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According to the Insurance Information Institute, approximately 90% of the cause of wildfires happens because of people. These wildfires start with people leaving campfires unattended, cigarette butts, debris burning, powerlines that are down, and intentional arson. The last 10% of wildfires start by lava or lighting.
Camping responsibly means doing your best to ensure that your camping party does not cause these kinds of accidents. Being a responsible camper also makes your trips more relaxing and enjoyable and ensures that your camping adventures do not get cut short.
It always helps to know what the campfire rules are for the location where you’ll be camping. Every site is different and has different government entities that manage burning regulations.
Specifically, some locations provide strict guidelines and require campfires to be in provided campfire pits only. Others have little to no restrictions, allowing you to use your best judgment in determining where to put your campfire.
When camping in a different state, a secondary consideration is that bringing firewood across state lines can introduce pests and diseases to the locations that you will be camping. So, if you will be going to a new site, you recommend forage or purchase firewood.
There are defined campfire rules that you have to follow for the location you’ll be camping in, but regulations are also weather-based and can change quickly.
For instance, as of this writing, there are significant burn warnings in many places in Michigan because it’s been such a dry spring and early summer. Places out west are teetering on having outright burn bands in place due to the ongoing drought. To sum up this point, always check what the current conditions allow.
Always check with the local officials or wildlife resources to see if fires are allowed. State-owned parks will provide a firepit. This pit is the only place you are allowed to build a fire.
If you are in a place where campfires are allowed, but there is no fire pit provided, it is best to use your shovel to dig a firepit. Look for space where there are no overhanging branches, powerlines, tent parts, and make sure there is a 10-foot circle of clear space around the firepit.
Once you finish the firepit, line the outside of the ring with rocks ensuring a barrier if your flames start to spread.
Just like you lock your cars to keep valuables safe, when you leave your campsite unattended, put your fire out. An unattended fire can have items blow down onto the fire, or the wind can quickly spread the flames, especially if the fire is not in a firepit.
Going on an all-day hike or climb only to arrive back at camp to the ravages of a fire is not usually a part of our camping plan. It does not add to the camping experience.
Attached to the topic of firepit safety, wearing proper clothing around a fire will prevent burns. If you are camping with young ones, teaching them always to wear shoes around help to avoid burns on your feet from embers that have popped out of the firepit.
Matches or a Ferro rod fire starter are the best ways to start a campfire. We enjoy using a tinder ball or a bushcraft fire tin because the fuel is contained in a way that ensures we have dry tinder for starting our fire. Depending on your location, dry wood and kindling are not a guarantee when camping.
Camping responsibly benefits you, your host, and our world. We have to live here, let’s make it as safe, clean, and enjoyable life as we can. Adventures in the outdoors are a perfect opportunity to teach those around us fire safety.