Prevent your campfire from turning into a wildfire


Published by Kristin Babbs


Sitting around a campfire is one of the special times we all enjoy, but campfires are also a major cause of wildfires. May is Wildfire Awareness Month, and Keep Oregon Green, the Oregon State Fire Marshal, and the Oregon Department of Forestry urge Oregonians to follow these basic outdoor safety tips:

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – Call your local forestry or fire district to learn if there are any current campfire restrictions at your recreation destination. An interactive map of Oregon’s fire restrictions is available at: Tom Fields, ODF’s fire prevention coordinator, said the map continues to improve and is “an excellent tool for folks to use from home or from their mobile device.”

KICK THE CAMPFIRE HABIT THIS SUMMER – Portable camp stoves are a safer option to campfires at any time of year. Areas that prohibit campfires outside maintained campgrounds with established fire pits often will allow the use of camp stoves.

SELECT THE RIGHT SPOT – Where campfires are allowed, avoid building the fire near your tent, structures, vehicles, shrubs or trees, and be aware of low-hanging branches overhead. Clear the site down to mineral soil, at least five feet on all sides, and circle your campfire with rocks. Store your unused firewood a good distance from the fire.

KEEP YOUR CAMPFIRE SMALL – A campfire is less likely to escape control if it is kept small. A large fire may cast hot embers long distances. Add firewood in small amounts as existing material is consumed.

ATTEND YOUR CAMPFIRE AT ALL TIMES – A campfire left unattended for only a few minutes can grow into a costly, damaging wildfire. Staying with your campfire from start to finish until dead out is required by state law, to ensure that any escaped sparks or embers can be extinguished quickly.

NEVER USE GASOLINE or other accelerants (flammable or combustible liquids) to start or increase your campfire. Once the fire is ignited, discard the match in the fire.

ALWAYS HAVE WATER AND FIRE TOOLS on site – Have a shovel and a bucket of water nearby to extinguish any escaped embers. When you are ready to leave, drown all embers with water, stir the coals with the shovel, and drown again. Repeat until the fire is DEAD out. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.

Burn ONLY wood – State regulations prohibit the open burning of any material that creates dense, toxic smoke or noxious odors.

ESCAPED CAMPFIRES can be costly – State law requires the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires any time of year. A first-time citation carries a $110 fine. But by far the biggest potential cost of having your campfire spread out of control is liability for firefighting costs. You are responsible for the expenditures on fire suppression, which can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.

During Wildfire Awareness Month visit the Keep Oregon Green website, for other wildfire prevention tips.


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