How to Start and Manage a Campfire

Be it for heating, preparing food, or just sitting around while having a good time with your fellow campers, a good fire will raise morale and potentially save a life. So it is necessary that we spend a little time practicing the best methods of fire building.

There is a natural link between fire and humans. For our earliest ancestors, fire was essential for generating heat, defense against wild animals, lighting at night, and a way to cook a meal. While fire no longer plays the role it once did for us humans, it still has a compelling element that draws us to it. Firy flames can encourage iconic tales, produce inspirational conversations, and establish solidarity among the people gathered around them.

First, you should have your fire bed on sheer earth, not pasture (particularly dry grass). If you are unable to find a bare place, make your own by digging and reaping away plant matter, taking great care to clear all dry plant matter. Dry grass, leaves, and vegetation can easily catch fire. It's time to start making your fire bed after you've cleared the ground. Gather dirt and position it in the middle of your cleared area. Shape the dirt into a 3-4 inch thick "base".

Create fires in specified fire rings, grills, or fire pits only. Some form of these is accessible in most established campgrounds. Using a fire ring will maximize your influence and keep your fire controlled. Always consult with the supervisor of the campsite to ensure fires are allowed. Extreme dry seasons can trigger campfires to be restricted in certain areas, including in campgrounds.

If you are staying in an untapped location, consult with the land administration department (U.S. Forest Service, Land Management Bureau, etc.) ahead of time. A permit for a campfire may be needed. Examine the location before any fire starts. If the area is grassy or has low-hanging branches, keep limited or avoid the fire outright. In dry weather, a wildfire could sudden be triggered by fly-away embers.

You'll need to add a little more to the tinder to keep your fire going. Kindling is bigger than tinder materials but it's not so big that it will douse the flames of the fire. Search for partial tree limbs and branches around your campsite to be used as firewood. Choose limbs and twigs with the width roughly that of a pencil. Your lighting materials must be dry like the tinder. If the twigs and branches have some moist spots, use your camping knife to gently scrape them off.

Always use local firewood. Local shops mostly carry firewood, and campsite managers sometimes provide packs of firewood. When you're traveling from more than 50 miles away, do not carry wood with you. Campsites can also restrict you from bringing your own firewood, regardless of the distance you're traveling to avoid attracting unsolicited insects into a forest.

You should add bigger planks of wood to your fire pit to help sustain the flames. Such woods, generally recognized as kindling or fuelwood, can be 1 to 5 inch in diameter, enabling you to use full logs or cut bigger planks of wood into manageable chunks. You do not want to use wood that's too heavy, because burning can take significantly longer.

When you're not certain if the wood is a perfect size, relate it to your forearm or wrist, it should be around a similar size. Campfires must never begin with gasoline, fuel liquids or any other flammable materials as they can be dangerous to the ecosystem and lead to flames that spiral out of control. Instead, a long­-handled lighter wand or preferably matches are suggested.

Begin with a little cone of kindling around some handfuls of tinder loosely stacked in the middle of the ring of fire. When the fire gets intense and the temperature increases, you may introduce a few bigger logs at a time, if needed. To build the base of your structure, put two large pieces of firewood parallel to each other and with some space in between. Then turn 90 degrees to form a square, and put two smaller pieces on top and perpendicular.

Inside the square, place lots of tinder. Continue adding a few more layers of firewood around the perimeter, with each layer becoming a little smaller. Wrap up around the top with a surface of firewood and tinder. In order to let the fire get sufficient oxygen, remember to keep spaces between the logs.

Please consult the guidelines with local land administrators, and if they provide them, implement their measures. In general, though, by pouring water on it, you can extinguish your fire but again mix the ashes, then add more water. Repeat as much as you need.

Before you leave the place, the remains from the fire must be cold to the touch. Be completely certain that the fire is out and its embers are cold until you leave. Remember that the method of using dirt or sand to extinguish a fire is dangerous as it can insulate coals that will soon be exposed and cause a wildfire to erupt. Never leave the campfire unmonitored.

Do not pass your hands through the ashes. Grazing a burning ember with your hand is apainful experience. Instead, put the back of your hands near to the ashes. If you're still feeling warmth, you still have work to do. Try to add water, and stir. You can leave as soon as it feels cool. Next, get rid of the ashes. You don't want to leave a fire pit littered with old ashes for the next camper.

Also, you want to leave the ground in the same state it was before you came around and made your fire pit. Inside a bag, gather up the ashes and scatter them around the area. Only burn waste objects if they can be completely devoured by the fire and turned into ash. Don't try burning plastic, containers or foil. If you burn something that isn't entirely consumed, retrieve the residue once the fire is out, either packing it or tossing it in a garbage container.