With all of the tragic fires engulfing the West Coast in areas we love, it never hurts to review some fire safety tips before hitting the trail. National and State Forests provide such an amazing experience for backpackers and day hikers alike, it is always hard to watch tragedies such as these take away the areas we admire. While some fires are caused by natural circumstances such as lightening and over-dry conditions, more and more instances are occurring because of man-made situations. These situations can be prevented with some of these simple steps. Remember to always be prepared, and always check the weather conditions before heading out for a trek.
1) Use existing fire pits whenever possible
We know, a warm fire on a chilly night is one of the many perks of camping out. Remember to check with the park ranger in the area you are hiking in for any fire-bans. You can also call your local fire department before heading out to double check any pre-existing conditions. Once in the clear to make a fire, use a fire pit when provided. Even in the backcountry, many pre-existing fire pits have already been prepared by those before you. Most trails have been around for ages, meaning people have already made it easier to find a safe spot. Keep the fire within the designed area, use only wood that’s less than the width of your wrist, and of course – don’t hit the hay until the fire is completely extinguished.
2) Keep the area free of flammable debris
Dry leaves and other loose materials on the forest floor provide easy kindling for stray embers or drifting sparks. Adding large clumps of pine straw to a roaring fire is dangerous since it combusts quickly and floats up on plumes of smoke. Rocks in a fire ring are more than decoration; they provide protection against wind that might toss glowing sparks into the nearby forest. Where your campsite is located should also be noted. Camping on top of the mountain may provide beautiful sunrise and sunset opportunities – but remember the wind will be stronger! Keep the fire small and keep an eye on the surrounding brush. Don’t forget to look up and keep an eye out for any low bearing branches.
3) Leave no Trace
The leave no trace policy goes deeper then just carrying out your sandwich bag from lunch. It’s also helpful for preventing wildfires! The policy provides guidance to enjoy your natural world in a sustainable way that avoids human-created impacts. Ever been on a trail littered in toilet paper? No fun right? Burning trash is also considered not following the Leave No trace Policy. Most items do not get burned entirely, leaving a small trash pit in the middle of a fire ring. No Bueno! Simply bring a small bag to keep trash items separated from the rest of your pack. You can even hook this to the outside of you pack for extra distance.
4) Drown the Fire
Keeping water near the fire is always a great precaution. Feeling sleepy? Here are some tips on how to extinguish the fire properly:
- Drown your campfire 1/2 hour before you break camp. Use your shovel to separate the burning pieces of wood in the fire pit.
- Stir and mix – Stir and mix water with the ashes until the fire is out. Don’t try to bury the fire under dirt, it can smolder for hours and then escape.
- Drown briquettes – Charcoal briquettes should be extinguished by dumping into a pail of water, mixing thoroughly, and then place into the fire pit.
- Feel the ashes – Feel the ashes to be sure the fire is out. Before you leave the campsite, check the area within 50 feet of the fire for sparks or embers that may have escaped.
5 ) Watch that Portable Stove
We love portable stoves just as much as the next person! Cooking has never been so easy with these handy devices. They are made with fire safety in mind so they usually do not cause any problems. Make sure the stove is seated on a balanced and level surface to ensure it – and your previous food – don’t go toppling over! Always keep an eye on boiling water and never, ever, cook in you tent! The Crazy Creek HEX 2.0 PowerLounger can transform into a perfect food set-up area, away from the brush and on a colorful backdrop so nothing goes missing.
Safety first and good times to come!