The Art Of Putting Out A Campfire

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By Sean Murphy

It’s literally the centre-piece of every campsite, a source of warmth and a means to cook. It’s the thing we do hurriedly in the hour just before sunset, the desperate hunt for twigs and dry bits of wood. Some would bring their own kindle, or have a trust-worthy fire starter kit amongst their gear. We’d build a fort-like wall of rocks along it’s parameter to prevent the fire from growing.  It also lets us know where the ground ends and the fire starts.

The beloved camp fire.

Once a day of hiking ends and the tents are erected, there’s the anticipation of the night’s meal, the focus of cold bodies as night time falls and where a thousand conversations are held. Jokes are told and confessions are made. Damper is cooked and freeze dried meals come back to life.  And sometimes marshmallows are skewered by sticks ready to be toasted.  Then the troops are fed and the tiredness of a whole days activity begin to show and it’s time to turn in for the night.

Living in a country like Australia leaves us spoilt for enjoying the outdoors.  But there is of course a very serious side of nature that we need to be completely aware of when camping.  And a responsibility.  Bushfires are an all too familiar occurrence, especially in dry and hot conditions.  It is imperative to know how to fully extinguish your camp fire to prevent a disaster.

Reconsider adding that extra piece of wood to the fire if you intend on turning in for the night, or are shortly planning on vacating the site.  If possible, allow the fire to burn down to ash.  Use a shovel or a stick to separate the wood from the charcoal, this will help slow down the fire and reduce the temperature.

Sprinkle water over the fire including the embers.  If there is too much smoke, wait a few moments before resuming.  Ideally you want everything in the fire pit to be wet.  Keep adding water until you can’t hear any hissing coming from the embers.  In circumstances where water is limited, use dirt or sand.

It is important not to bury the fire under dirt unless it’s completely extinguished, so ensure you stir the dirt or sand through the embers.  Burying a fire can smoulder and reignite.  Hover your hand just above the area to gauge whether there is any heat still radiating.

When satisfied you have met the above guidelines, you know you have done your job in preventing any unnecessary bushfires.  You have made the safety of others and the protection of the parks and forests your number one priority.