The major wildfires raging through Northern California right now are a stark reminder that when you head into the backcountry in California, you’re heading into a tinder box.
Among the many causes of wildfires, campfires are high on the list. To help prevent forest fires, the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group has put together campfire safety tips:
Get a Campfire Permit
Campfire permits can also be obtained from any CAL FIRE, US Forest Service, or BLM station or office. You can apply for one online here. Your campfire permit is valid from the date issued until the end of the calendar year. They are required to have campfire or portable gas stoves on public lands. Check to ensure there aren’t any local fire restrictions in the area. During periods of high fire danger, campfires may be restricted. Also, keep a shovel and bucket of water nearby at all times.
Camping Fire Safety – How to Build an Open Campfire
Select a level, open location away from heavy fuels such as logs, brush or decaying leaves and needles. Clear an area at least 10 feet in diameter (local regulations may vary). Scrape away grass, leaves or needles down to the mineral soil. Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area in which to build the fire and put a ring of rocks around it. Cut wood in short lengths, pile within cleared area and light the fire. The fire should be built no larger than necessary. Your fire must never be left unattended and the fire must be extinguished completely before leaving.
While the Fire is Burning – Open Fire Safety
Always keep a shovel and bucket of water nearby at all times. While the fire is burning, be sure there is a responsible person in attendance of the fire at all times. Never leave children around a fire unattended.
How to Completely Extinguish an Open Campfire
Use the “drown, stir and feel” method: drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it. And finally, feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is still smoldering.
This video sums it all up: