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 online. Tom Fields, ODF’s fire prevention coordinator, says 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 allow 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 it with rocks. Store 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 even a few minutes can grow into a costly, damaging wildfire. Stay with your campfire from start to finish until it is dead out. That ensures any escaped sparks or embers can be extinguished quickly, and it is required by state law.
Never use gasoline or other accelerants
Don’t use flammable or combustible liquids, such as gasoline, propane or lighter fluid, to start or increase your campfire. Once the fire starts, wait until the match is cold and then discard it in the fire.
Have water and fire tools on site
Have a shovel and a bucket of water nearby to extinguish any escaped embers. Before you leave, DROWN all embers with water, STIR the coals, 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. Burning paper and cardboard can also easily fly up to start new fires.
Escaped campfires can be costly. Oregon law requires the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires at any time of year. A first-time citation carries a $110 fine. But by far the biggest potential cost is liability for firefighting costs if your campfire spreads out of control. These can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars or more.
During Wildfire Awareness Month visit the Keep Oregon Green website, for other wildfire prevention tips.