One of the highlights of going camping is sitting around the campfire. In fact, many of the most memorable moments in any camping trip happen around the campfire. From sipping chocolate and telling stories, playing guitar and singing along, or simply putting your toes close to the campfire after a long day of walking and hiking through the woods. Campfires are a staple of any happy campsite, but they can also be the cause of fire-related accidents and disasters. This is why knowing the proper way of putting out a campfire (completely and thoroughly) is very important.
Improperly put out campfires (or even untended coals from portable grills and fires from camping stoves) can lead to a variety of problems, both personal and environmental. Campfire accidents send thousands of people (mostly children) to hospitals and emergency rooms every year to be treated for minor and severe burns. They are also one of the leading causes of wildfire in many national parks or campsites annually. Considering all that, knowing how to put out a campfire properly is one of the essential skills that every camper should learn and master.
There are two common ways by which campfires can be put out. Out of these two, the first method (the one which uses water) is the more effective one and should be the first option to use when putting out a campfire. The second method also works well in most instances, though it will require a more thorough application to ensure that it effectively put out the campfire.
Putting Out a Campfire Using Water
By far the most effective way of putting out a campfire is with the use of water (and no, pouring the remaining coffee from your camping mug over the campfire doesn’t count). Water will not only put out burning coals, logs, and embers but it will also help to cool down the rocks and the soil in and around the campfire. This is worth noting because hot rocks and ground can still cause dried leaves around them to ignite and burn, which in turn can lead to a wildfire. That said, here’s how you completely and properly put out a campfire using water.
- Grab a bucket and fill it with water from a nearby lake, river, stream, or whatever water source is available.
- Pour the water over the campfire. Don’t stand directly above the fire as you do so, otherwise, you’ll be inhaling all the smoke and hot steam that will come up. Although not particularly dangerous to a certain degree, it can cause some irritation to your eyes and nostrils. The smoke may also stick to your softshell jacket, the smell of which is not at all that appealing.
- After all the hissing sounds are gone, mix up the ashes and embers using a stick or a folding shovel. Mix up the ashes and embers into the soil or dirt until they’re all covered up with mud. As you stir, be on the lookout for red embers and burning wood. If you see any, get more water and pour it over them until they are completely extinguished.
- Scrape the burned parts of any wood or logs that you used in the campfire using your stick or shovel. Even if the wood or log seems to be okay, scraping them may reveal some burning embers underneath their surface. Again, if there are still some red embers or burning parts of the wood or log, douse them down with water.
- After you’ve stirred through the fire pit and scraped off any burning embers from the wood or logs, pour some more water over the campfire just in case there are remaining embers that you missed.
- Put your hand over the campfire, coals, and logs. At this point, they should feel cool to the touch. If you don’t feel any heat coming from them, you can touch them with your hands. If they still feel warm, repeat the above steps until you no longer feel any heat coming from wood, coal, and logs. The ground and the rocks surrounding the campfire pit should also feel cool to the touch.
Putting out a campfire with water isn’t always as simple and straightforward as it may first appear to be. Simply pouring water over the fire is never enough to ensure that the campfire has been completely put out. Follow the steps above and never, ever leave the camp until the campfire has been completely put out.
Putting Out a Campfire with Dirt
Ideally, you’ll want to make use of water when putting out a campfire. However, this isn’t always possible especially when you’re camping in areas where water sources are far and few in between. In this case, you can only put out the campfire using dirt. Here’s how you do it.
- Wait for the fire to completely die down. If you know that you’re leaving the campsite anytime soon, don’t add more wood or logs to the campfire.
- Once the fire has died down, stir the coals and embers with the dirt ashes using a stick or a shovel. Poke the coals and wood to uncover any burning embers underneath.
- Grab your shovel and dig up a little bit of dirt and cover the coals and wood with it. You only need a small amount of dirt for this. Too much dirt will leave you burying the coals and embers and this will only make it harder for you to know if you’ve completely put the fire out since this will completely bury the coals and embers. Again, burying burning coals and embers will not guarantee that the fire has been completely put out.
- Mix the dirt with the coals, embers, and ashes until every bit of them is covered. Wait for a few minutes and put your palm over the fire pit. You shouldn’t feel any heat radiating from it at this point. If you can still feel some heat coming off the fire pit, repeat the steps above until they’ve completely cooled down.
Again, this method should only be a second option since the most effective way of putting out a campfire is with the use of water. If you really can’t find any water available, make sure that you follow the steps above to the letter. Repeat the process again and again if you have to or until the coals, wood, ground rocks, and everything else in and around the fire pit is completely cooled down.
Globo Surf Overview
Sitting around the campfire on a chilly night, with all its brightness and warmth, is one of the many pleasures of going camping. However, it is our responsibility to ensure that our campfires do not cause any form of destruction or become a hazard to ourselves, other campers, and the environment. Thus, campers need to practice putting out a campfire the proper way.
Campers are advised never to leave the campsite unless their campfires are thoroughly put out. This is especially true when you’re backpacking and building your campfire on the ground, but it also applies to campers who are using a designated campfire pit. In any case, it is the responsibility of every camper to learn how to put out a campfire properly and completely for the sake of both campers and the environment.
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