We all share fond memories of roasting s’mores over a fire on summer camping trips, however, knowing campfire safety practices is becoming more important than ever as wildfire seasons grow longer and more dangerous each year.
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Campfires can cause lasting impacts on the backcountry, so it may be best to avoid having a campfire altogether, especially during high-risk times. Instead, use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy a candle lantern for light. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimal-impact cooking because they are fast, flexible, and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition and they Leave No Trace.

If you must have a fire, lessen your impact as best you can. Before you strike a match, make sure a campfire is allowed in your area and check fire danger levels and burn bans, which can change daily. Always use established fire rings and ensure the area is free of brush, debris, or tree branches too close to the fire.

To build your fire, gather kindling, made up of dry sticks, twigs, and small branches. Other helpful items are dry pine cones or leaves, sawdust or wood chips, or recycled paper. Do not attempt to use lighter fluid or gasoline as your accelerant, as they often cause more trouble than they solve.

Once you have a fire started, keep it small by using only sticks from the ground that can be broken by hand, and never leave your fire unattended. When leaving, extinguish your fire with water (not dirt) and carefully feel all sticks, coals, and ashes. If any remaining materials are too warm to touch, it’s too hot to leave. A true Leave No Trace fire shows no evidence of having been constructed.

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