How to Build a Campfire
Safely building a campfire can lead to great memories roasting marshmallows, telling campfire stories, or simply relaxing in the evening with your family and friends as you watch your fire dance around. The following describes a basic way to build a campfire along with some basic supplies you will need.
Please keep in mind there are specific EPA regulations along with localized laws requiring burn permits in populated areas. Check with your local fire department concerning laws in your area before starting a fire. If camping, check with park officials concerning the use of campfires and locate the designated fire pits.
Fires pose a hazard to wooded areas, homes, and people. Never leave your fire unattended. Use caution anytime you are working around a fire, maintain a safe distance, and teach children how to behave safely around a fire. Don’t start a fire if there are fire restrictions based on hot, dry weather or if high winds are expected. Keep your fire small and under control.
You will need to keep supplies on hand such as a shovel, water hose, or some other item to extinguish the flames if they move outside of the pit. Always keep flammable items such as propane, gasoline, or other fuel tanks away from open flames to include kerosene lanterns or camp stoves with compressed fuel sources. The fumes of these products are flammable and caution should be used concerning these products while an open flame is present.
Personal safety should always be a priority when maintaining a fire. Tie back long hair if you are working with or around the fire and keep loose clothing away from the flames. Never throw anything into a fire such as closed plastic bottles, aerosol cans or pressurized containers. These items could explode and this could result in injury to those people in close vicinity of the fire. Other items such as glass bottles and aluminum cans do not burn and pose a hazard to you as they melt or become airborne particles.
Once you start a fire, it is your responsibility to maintain it. Ensure the fire is completely extinguished prior to leaving it. If the fire or area where the fire was located is too hot to touch, then it is too hot to leave. Completely extinguish your fire by dousing the area with water or a mixture of dirt and sand. Do not bury the fire as it can still burn underground and lead to problems such as a field or forest fire. Clear the area around the fire pit to reduce the chance for rekindling.
For more information on fire safety and forest fire prevention visit Smokey Bear.
Camp Fire Supplies
Newspaper or Tinder such as dry leaves or grass
Kindling (small sticks less than 1 inch in diameter)
Fuel (larger sticks and logs to add to the fire)
Matches (or other source of ignition such as a lighter or flint stick)
Fire Extinguisher, shovel, or water source (hose, bucket of water, etc.)
How to Build a Tipi Style Fire
This type of fire is great for using your fire for cooking. It funnels the main flames up the center of the fire and is easy to maintain.
Step 1: Clean up the fire pit (or create one as needed) making sure all flammable materials such as tinder are removed from outside of the fire ring.
Step 2: Take your newspaper and loosely crumple the individual sheets of paper.
Step 3: Place the newspaper and the smallest sticks you have collected into a small pile in the center of your fire pit.
Step 4: Take a few larger sticks and insert them at an angle in the shape of a tipi. These will support the rest of your tinder and fuel while building your fire.
Step 5: Continue to add more of the 1″ sticks to the fire. Keeping the sticks pointing up at an angle.
NOTE: In order to burn, the fire must have access to oxygen. Build your fire loosely to allow quick ignition.
Step 6: Keep one side of the tipi open while adding small sticks and tinder to the other sides. This provides an area for oxygen to flow. Add additional tinder and small sticks in this area to promote the fire.
Step 7: Establish 2 or 3 spots to light your fire. Carefully light your match and touch the flame to the newspaper. Dispose of hot match in the fire pit.
Step 8: As the tinder begins to burn, add medium size logs to your fire at the same angle as your sticks (away from the opening).
Step 9: Add a few larger logs to the fire to establish a strong flame.
Step 10: After about 10 minutes your fire should have a solid base of coals. Continue to add additional logs as necessary to keep your fire going.
NOTE: If your logs are wet or damp, you can place them in the fire ring along the edge to dry out. After about 20 minutes, carefully push the logs into the fire in a criss-cross fashion.
Enjoy! This type of back yard fire provides a great tool for roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. It can also be a great warm up on a cool summer’s night. Do you have any suggestions on how to build a campfire? We would love to hear your ideas.