Campfires are fundamental to RVing in the great outdoors. Whether you’re cooking food over the open fire or sitting around it on a chilly night with a cup of hot cocoa, it will always be the centerpiece of your campsite. So, it’s important that you start, control, maintain and extinguish it, to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
Firewood in Canada
One of the main reasons why campfire safety is so important is to ensure that we’re protecting our environment. In Canada, this starts with only using firewood that is locally sourced. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency advises that campers buy and use firewood within the province where they will be camping. This prevents pests from accidentally being transferred to and potentially infesting other areas. While each province has its own regulations, it is best to buy firewood close to where it will be used.
Only Build a Campfire in a Designated Area
The vast majority of RV campsites have designated fire pits or fire rings for the purpose of building campfires. Your RV should be parked no closer than 20 feet from the fire. The area around the pit or ring should be clear of chairs, coolers and potentially flammable debris for three feet around the fire. There should also be no low hanging branches above the fire. Avoid starting a campfire in high winds where hot ashes may ignite outside of the designated area. If a hose is unavailable, keep a bucket of water near the fire in case of an emergency.
Building a Proper Campfire
Building a proper campfire takes tinder, kindling, and logs. Tinder is easily ignitable grass or wadded newspaper that is placed in the center of the fire ring. Kindling, or smaller twigs and sticks, should be built in a teepee fashion around the tinder. Once you have a sufficient stick teepee constructed over the tinder, ignite the tinder. Continue to add smaller sticks until you are comfortable the fire will continue on its own. Then begin to add larger logs until you have a thriving fire that remains under your control.
Campfire Safety Tips
- Only use dry, seasoned wood that is locally sourced.
- Don't use an accelerant like gas, kerosene or alcohol.
- Keep flammable items like propane tanks and aerosol and gas cans far away from the campfire.
- Make sure children and pets are always supervised around open flames.
- Keep the fire small enough to control.
- Never leave a fire unattended.
- When cooking, only use insulated, long-handled cooking utensils designed for outdoor use like cast iron pans, kettles, and skillets.
- Always observe local fire bans and advisories.
- Instruct everyone near the fire to "drop and roll" should a hot ember ignite any clothing. Ensure they understand the importance of not running.
Extinguishing a Campfire
One of the most enjoyable parts of having a campfire is watching it as it slowly burns itself out. Plan ahead to appreciate this “quiet” time and once the open flames have quieted, spread the hot coals around to let them burn down further. After spreading the coals again, pour water on the coals, being cautious of potential steam that could arise. Repeat until the ashes have cooled.
Protecting yourself, your family and your property extends beyond your property lines. You also have a responsibility to protect the environment and others around you. This is particularly true when it comes to outdoor flames and campfires so be safe and cautious!