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One of the best parts of summer is gathering around a bonfire with friends and family to swap stories, have a few drinks, and maybe even roast some hot dogs or s’mores. But with a campfire comes a responsibility—being careless with fire can lead to disaster.
We’ve put together an essential guide that tells you how to stay smart this bonfire season to keep yourself and your community safe.
Know the Local Ordinances
Before you even prepare for a bonfire, ensure that you’re familiar with your area’s local ordinances and regulations regarding campfires. For campers in the Sierra National Forest, you can have campfires only in designated areas, and campers must have a permit before starting one.
If it’s been a while since there’s been rain in your area, or it’s been unseasonably hot, there may be a temporary ban on bonfires.
Check the Weather
You should never build a bonfire on a windy day or night as it increases the chance of embers traveling and igniting an uncontrolled fire. If the wind picks up in the middle of your bonfire and seems dangerous, it’s best to err on the safe side and put out the fire before it becomes hazardous.
Pick Your Bonfire Spot Wisely
Many campsites have designated campfire sections for safe bonfires, so you should never start a bonfire outside of the safe zones. For bonfires at home, ensure that your fire site is clear of trees, buildings, sheds, or any other structures that may be flammable.
Have Your Supplies Ready
Before you light up your campfire, have all the supplies you need ready. You don’t want to leave the campfire unattended to grab something. Some things you should have by your side while tending the bonfire include:
- Bucket of water/garden hose/fire extinguisher
- Fire poker for tending and containing the fire
- Dry, seasoned wood (no furniture, debris, or materials that could produce toxic fumes)
- Marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers (it’s not a bonfire without s’mores!)
It’s also wise to consider some gloves while minding the bonfire, but it’s best to know the differences between fire-resistant or fire-retardant clothing beforehand. It will keep your hands safe from burns and make it easier to maintain and adjust the fire.
A fire can spread at a moment’s notice, so it’s essential to stay vigilant of the fire when it’s burning. Never leave a bonfire unattended, and if you have to go, appoint someone else to keep watch until you return.
When it’s time to pack up, ensure that the bonfire burns out and use a fire poker to spread around the coals and ashes so that they cool down. Douse the campfire with water to ensure it’s completely safe before leaving.
It’s more important than ever to stay safe and smart during bonfire season, so follow these tips to keep your friends, family, and community safe!