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A campfire is a fire
Fire is the rapid oxidation of a material in the chemical process of combustion, releasing heat, light, and various reaction products. Slower oxidative processes like rusting or digestion are not included by this definition....

 lit at a campsite
A campsite or camping pitch is a place used for overnight stay in the outdoors. In British English a campsite is an area, usually divided into a number of pitches, where people can camp overnight using tents or camper vans or caravans; this British English use of the word is synonymous with the...

, to serve the following functions: light, warmth, a beacon, a bug and/or apex predator deterrent, to cook, and for a psychological sense of security. In established campgrounds they are usually in a fire ring
Fire ring
A fire ring is a device used to contain campfires and prevent them from spreading and turning into wildfires.A fire ring is designed to contain a fire that is built directly upon the ground, such as a campfire. Fire rings have no bottom, and are simply circles made of forged metal, stones,...

 for safety. Campfires are a popular feature of camping, particularly among organized campers such as Scouts
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

 or Guides. In some regions it is called a bonfire, especially when it is of a very large size.

Finding a site

Ideally, campfires should be made in a fire ring. If a fire ring is not available, a temporary fire site may be constructed. Bare rock or unvegetated ground is ideal for a fire site. Alternatively, turf may be cut away to form a bare area and carefully replaced after the fire has cooled to minimize damage. Another way is to cover the ground with sand
Sand is a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles.The composition of sand is highly variable, depending on the local rock sources and conditions, but the most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal...

, or other soil mostly free of flammable organic
Organic compound
An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon, and cyanides, as well as the...

 material, to a depth of a few inches. A ring of rocks is sometimes construted around a fire. Fire rings, however, do not fully protect material on the ground from catching fire. Flying embers are still a threat, and the fire ring may become hot enough to ignite material in contact with it.

Safety measures

  • Avoid building campfires over hanging branches and steep slopes, and clear a ten-foot diameter circle around the fire of all flammable debris.
  • Have lots of water nearby and a shovel to smother an out-of-control fire with dirt.
  • Minimize the size of the fire to prevent problems from occurring.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • When extinguishing a campfire, use plenty of water, then stir the mixture and add more water. Afterward, check that there are no burning embers left whatsoever. If water is unavailable, use dirt. Take a green leaf and place it on your coals, if the leaf curls up the coals are still too hot.
  • Never bury hot coals, they can continue to burn and cause root fires or wildfire
    A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, squirrel fire, vegetation fire, veldfire, and wilkjjofire may be used to describe the same...

    s. Be aware of roots if digging a hole for your fire.

Types of fuel

There are, by conventional classification, three types of material involved in building a fire without manufactured fuel
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...


  1. Tinder
    Tinder is easily combustible material used to ignite fires by rudimentary methods. A small fire consisting of tinder is then used to ignite kindling. Anything that can be ignited by a match can be considered tinder; or by more rigorous definition, anything that begins to glow under a shower of...

    lights easily and is used to start an enduring campfire. It is anything that can be lit with a match
    A match is a tool for starting a fire under controlled conditions. A typical modern match is made of a small wooden stick or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface...

     and is usually classified as being thinner than your little finger. A few decent natural tinders are birch bark
    Birch bark
    Birch bark or birchbark is the bark of several Eurasian and North American birch trees of the genus Betula.The strong and water-resistant cardboard-like bark can be easily cut, bent, and sewn, which made it a valuable building, crafting, and writing material, since pre-historic times...

    , cedar bark, and fatwood
    Fatwood, also known as "fat lighter," "lighter wood", "rich lighter", "pine knot","heart pine" or "lighter'd" , is derived from the heartwood of pine trees. This resin-impregnated heartwood becomes hard and rot-resistant. The stump left in the ground after a tree has fallen or has been cut is an...

    , where available; followed by dead, dry pine
    Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

     needles or grass
    The Poaceae is a large and nearly ubiquitous family of flowering plants. Members of this family are commonly called grasses, although the term "grass" is also applied to plants that are not in the Poaceae lineage, including the rushes and sedges...

    ; a more comprehensive list is given in the article on tinder
    Tinder is easily combustible material used to ignite fires by rudimentary methods. A small fire consisting of tinder is then used to ignite kindling. Anything that can be ignited by a match can be considered tinder; or by more rigorous definition, anything that begins to glow under a shower of...

    . Though not natural, steel wool makes excellent tinder and can be started with steel and flint, or a 9 volt battery without difficulty.
  2. Kindling is an arbitrary classification including anything bigger than tinder but smaller than fuelwood. In fact, there are gradations of kindling, from sticks thinner than a finger to those as thick as a wrist. A quantity of kindling sufficient to fill a hat may be enough, but more is better.
  3. Fuel can be different types of timber
    Timber may refer to:* Timber, a term common in the United Kingdom and Australia for wood materials * Timber, Oregon, an unincorporated community in the U.S...

    . Timber ranges from small logs two or three inches (76 mm) across to larger logs that can burn for hours. It is typically difficult to gather without a hatchet
    A hatchet is a single-handed striking tool with a sharp blade used to cut and split wood...

     or other cutting tool. In heavily used campsites, fuelwood can be hard to find, so it may have to be brought from home or purchased at a nearby store.

In the United States, areas such as State Park
State park
State parks are parks or other protected areas managed at the federated state level within those nations which use "state" as a political subdivision. State parks are typically established by a state to preserve a location on account of its natural beauty, historic interest, or recreational...

s and National Park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

s which permit camping most often will allow the collection of wood lying on the ground with the exception of parks that have erosion problems (i.e. campgrounds that are near dune
In physical geography, a dune is a hill of sand built by wind. Dunes occur in different forms and sizes, formed by interaction with the wind. Most kinds of dunes are longer on the windward side where the sand is pushed up the dune and have a shorter "slip face" in the lee of the wind...

s). Cutting of living trees is almost always forbidden; Squaw wood (dead parts of standing trees) may also be prohibited.

Building the fire

There are a variety of designs to choose from in building a campfire. A functional design is very important in the early stages of a fire. Most of them make no mention of fuelwood – in most designs, fuelwood is never placed on a fire until the kindling is burning strongly.
  • The tipi fire-build takes some patience to construct. First, the tinder is piled up in a compact heap. The smaller kindling is arranged around it, like the poles of a tipi
    A tipi is a Lakota name for a conical tent traditionally made of animal skins and wooden poles used by the nomadic tribes and sedentary tribal dwellers of the Great Plains...

    . For added strength, it may be possible to lash some of the sticks together. A tripod lashing is quite difficult to execute with small sticks, so a clove hitch
    Clove hitch
    A clove hitch is a type of knot. Along with the bowline and the sheet bend, it is often considered one of the most essential knots. A clove hitch is two successive half-hitches around an object. It is most effectively used as a crossing knot. It can be used as a binding knot, but is not...

     should suffice. (Synthetic rope should be avoided, since it produces pollutant
    A pollutant is a waste material that pollutes air, water or soil, and is the cause of pollution.Three factors determine the severity of a pollutant: its chemical nature, its concentration and its persistence. Some pollutants are biodegradable and therefore will not persist in the environment in the...

    s when it burns.) Then the larger kindling is arranged above the smaller kindling, taking care not to collapse the tipi. A separate tipi as a shell around the first one may work better. Tipi fires are excellent for producing heat to keep people warm. However, one downside to a Tipi fire is that when it burns, the logs become unstable and can fall over. This is especially concerning with a large fire.
  • A lean-to fire-build starts with the same pile of tinder as the tipi fire-build. Then, a long, thick piece of kindling is driven into the ground at an angle, so that it overhangs the tinder pile. The smaller pieces of kindling are leaned against the big stick so that the tinder is enclosed between them.
    • In an alternative method, a large piece of fuel wood or log can be placed on the ground next to the tinder pile. Then kindling is placed with one end propped up by the larger piece of fuel wood, and the other resting on the ground, so that the kindling is leaning over the tinder pile. This method is useful in very high winds, as the piece of fuel wood acts as a windbreak.

  • A log cabin fire-build likewise begins with a tinder pile. The kindling is then stacked around it, as in the construction of a log cabin
    Log cabin
    A log cabin is a house built from logs. It is a fairly simple type of log house. A distinction should be drawn between the traditional meanings of "log cabin" and "log house." Historically most "Log cabins" were a simple one- or 1½-story structures, somewhat impermanent, and less finished or less...

    . The first two kindling sticks are laid parallel to each other, on opposite sides of the tinder pile. The second pair is laid on top of the first, at right angles to it, and also on opposite sides of the tinder. More kindling is added in the same manner. The smallest kindling is placed over the top of the assembly. Of all the fire-builds, the log cabin is the least vulnerable to premature collapse, but it is also inefficient, because it makes the worst use of convection
    Convection is the movement of molecules within fluids and rheids. It cannot take place in solids, since neither bulk current flows nor significant diffusion can take place in solids....

     to ignite progressively larger pieces of fuel. However, these qualities make the log cabin an ideal cooking fire as it burns for a long period of time and can support cookware.
    • A variation on the log cabin starts with two pieces of fuelwood with a pile of tinder between them, and small kindling laid over the tops of the logs, above the tinder. The tinder is lit, and the kindling is allowed to catch fire. When it is burning briskly, it is broken and pushed down into the consumed tinder, and the larger kindling is placed over the top of the logs. When that is burning well, it is also pushed down. Eventually, a pile of kindling should be burning between two pieces of fuelwood. The logs will eventually catch fire from it.
    • Another variation is called the funeral pyre method because it is used for building funeral pyre
      A pyre , also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite...

      s. Its main difference from the standard log cabin is that it starts with thin pieces and moves up to thick pieces. If built on a large scale, this type of fire-build collapses in a controlled manner without restricting the air flow.
    • A cross-fire is another variation in which two pieces of fuel wood are placed parallel on the ground with tinder between them. Once the kindling is going strong, alternating perpendicular layers of fuelwood are placed across the two base pieces. This type of fire is excellent for producing coals for cooking.

  • A hybrid fire combines the elements of both the tipi and the log cabin creating an easily lit yet stable fire structure. The hybrid is made by first erecting a small tipi and then proceeding to construct a log cabin around it. This fire structure borrows benefits from both fire types: the tipi allows the fire to ignite easily and the log cabin sustains the fire for a long period of time.

  • The traditional Finnish
    Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

     rakovalkea (literally "slit bonfire") is constructed by placing one long piece of fuelwood atop another, parallel, and bolstering them in place with four sturdy posts driven into the ground. (Traditionally, whole unsplit tree trunks are used for the fuelwood.) Kindling and tinder are placed between the logs in sufficient quantity (while avoiding the very ends) to raise the upper log and allow ventilation. The tinder is always lit at the center so the bolstering posts do not burn prematurely. The rakovalkea has two excellent features. First, it burns slowly but steadily when lit; it does not require arduous maintenance, but burns for a very long time. A well constructed rakovalkea of two thick logs of two meters in length can warm two lean-to shelters for a whole sleeping shift. The construction causes the logs themselves to protect the fire from the wind. Thus, exposure to smoke is unlikely for the sleepers; nevertheless someone should always watch in case of an emergency. Second, it can be easily scaled to larger sizes (for a feast) limited only by the length of available tree trunks.
  • Schwedenfackel (German). Roughly translated, it means "Swedish fire torch", also known by other names, to include Swedish (log) candle, and Swedish log stove. It is unique because it uses only one piece of fairly decent sized fuelwood as its fuel. The log is either cut (usually only partially, but other variants do include totally splitting) and then set upright (ideally, the log needs to be cut evenly and on a level surface for stability). Tinder and kindling are added to the preformed chamber, from the initial cuts. Eventually, the fire is self-feeding. The flat, circular top provides a surface to place a kettle, or pan for cooking, boiling liquids, etc. The elevated position of the fire can serve as a better beacon than the typical ground based campfire in some instances.
  • A keyhole fire is made in a keyhole-shaped fire ring, and is used in cooking. The large round area is used to build a fire in order to create coals. As coals develop, they are scraped into the rectangular area used for cooking.
  • A "top lighter" fire is built similar to a log cabin or pyre, but instead of the tinder and kindling being placed inside the cabin, it is placed in a tipi on top. The small tipi is lighted on top, and the coals eventually fall down into the log cabin. These fires are often built by youth outdoor movements for "council fires" or ceremonial fires. They burn very predictably, and with some practice a builder can estimate how long they will last. They also do not throw off a lot of heat, which isn't needed for a ceremonial fire. The fire burns from the top down, with the layer of hot coals and burning stubs igniting the next layer down.
    • Another variation to the top lighter, log cabin, or pyre is known by several names, most notably the pyramid, self-feeding, and upside-down [method]. The reasoning for this method are twofold. First, the layers of fuelwood take in the heat from the initial tinder/kindling therefore it is not lost to the surrounding ground. In effect, the fire is "off the ground", and burns its way down through its course. And secondly, this fire type requires minimal labor, thereby making it ideal as a fire of choice before bedding down for the evening without having to get up periodically to add fuelwood and/or stoke the fire to keep it going. Start by adding the largest fuelwood in a parallel "layer", then continue to add increasingly smaller and smaller fuelwood layers perpendicularly to the last layer. Once enough wood is piled, there should be a decent "platform" to make the tipi [tinder/kindling] to initiate the fire.

"A star fire, or Indian fire", is the fire design often depicted as the campfire of the old West. Imagine five or six logs laid out like the spokes of a wheel (star shaped). A fire is started at the "hub" and each log is pushed towards the center as the ends are consumed. First one will need to build a small ditch, about 5 inches across, with a depth of about an inch. Next set up 5 or 6 fuelwoods (about the size of your forearms in a star around the ditch with a little bit of the end sticking in over it. You will then line the inside of the ditch and a few inches inside the pieces of fuelwood with kindling. Make sure to have much more kindling set aside for later use. Set up a tinder nest on top of the kindling in the ditch. You can then surround the tinder with more kindling. The more the better, of course without disrupting the flow of oxygen, and allowing easy access to the tinder to light. Proceed to light the tinder with a match or lighter; Or lighting you coal using one the many different primitive fire starting techniques and transferring it to the tinder nest. Blow gently yet firmly until a fire is lit. Add kindling as needed until the ends of the fuel ignites. As the fuel is slowly burned you will proceed to push in the logs by the ends to keep the fire burning. When the fuel runs short you can simply add more fuelwood. This fire is ideal for calm conditions. It is another fire that can be kept burning all night long with little maintenance. The fire can be controlled easily, and is a great cooking fire because it is so predictable. Especially if you will be cooking using bushcraft and other primitive methods such as a T-bar hold for roasting and hanging pots for boiling.

Lighting the fire

Once the fire is built, the next step is to light the tinder, using either an ignition device such as a match
A match is a tool for starting a fire under controlled conditions. A typical modern match is made of a small wooden stick or stiff paper. One end is coated with a material that can be ignited by frictional heat generated by striking the match against a suitable surface...

 or a lighter
A lighter is a portable device used to generate a flame. It consists of a metal or plastic container filled with a flammable fluid or pressurized liquid gas, a means of ignition, and some provision for extinguishing the flame.- History :...

. A reasonably skillful fire-builder using reasonably good material will only need one match. The tinder will burn brightly, but be reduced to glowing embers within half a minute. If the kindling does not catch fire, the fire-builder must gather more tinder, determine what went wrong and try to fix it.

One of five problems can prevent a fire from lighting properly: wet wood, wet weather, too little tinder, too much wind, or a lack of oxygen. Rain will, of course, douse a fire, but a combination of wind
Wind is the flow of gases on a large scale. On Earth, wind consists of the bulk movement of air. In outer space, solar wind is the movement of gases or charged particles from the sun through space, while planetary wind is the outgassing of light chemical elements from a planet's atmosphere into space...

 and fog
Fog is a collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface. While fog is a type of stratus cloud, the term "fog" is typically distinguished from the more generic term "cloud" in that fog is low-lying, and the moisture in the fog is often generated...

 also has a stifling effect. Metal fire rings generally do a good job of keeping out wind, but some of them are so high as to impede the circulation of oxygen in a small fire. To make matters worse, these tall fire rings also make it very difficult to blow on the fire properly.

Steady, forceful blowing may be in order for a small fire in an enclosed space that has mysteriously slowed down, but blowing may extinguish a fire if it is done abruptly or when it is not needed. Most large fires easily create their own circulation, even in unfavorable conditions, but the variant log-cabin fire-build suffers from a chronic lack of air so long as the initial structure is maintained.

Once the large kindling is burning, all of the kindling should be put on the fire, save for one piece at least a foot long. This piece is useful later to push pieces of fuelwood where they are needed. Once all of the kindling is burning, the fuelwood should be placed on top of it (unless, as in the rakovalkea fire-build, it is already there). For best results, two or more pieces of fuelwood should be leaned against each other, as in the tipi fire-build.

Campfire activities

Campfires have been used for cooking
Cooking is the process of preparing food by use of heat. Cooking techniques and ingredients vary widely across the world, reflecting unique environmental, economic, and cultural traditions. Cooks themselves also vary widely in skill and training...

 since time immemorial
Time immemorial
Time immemorial is a phrase meaning time extending beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition, indefinitely ancient, "ancient beyond memory or record"...

. Possibly the simplest method of cooking over a campfire and one of the most common is to roast food on long skewers that can be held above the flames. This is a popular technique for cooking hot dogs or toasting marshmallows for making s'mores. Another technique is to use pie irons — small iron molds with long handles, into which can be placed slices of bread with some form of filling — which are placed over hot coals to cook. More elaborate grills, cast iron pots and fire irons can be used on the campfire to cook most foods. However, portable stove
Portable stove
A portable stove is a cooking stove specially designed to be portable and lightweight, as for camping or picnicking, or for use in remote locations where an easily transportable means of cooking or heating is needed...

s are often used instead of campfires for cooking.
For more information, see Campfire cooking.

Other practical, though not commonly needed, applications for campfires include drying wet clothing
Clothing refers to any covering for the human body that is worn. The wearing of clothing is exclusively a human characteristic and is a feature of nearly all human societies...

, alleviating hypothermia
Hypothermia is a condition in which core temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions which is defined as . Body temperature is usually maintained near a constant level of through biologic homeostasis or thermoregulation...

, and distress signal
Distress signal
A distress signal is an internationally recognized means for obtaining help. Distress signals take the form of or are commonly made by using radio signals, displaying a visually detected item or illumination, or making an audible sound, from a distance....


Most campfires, though, are lit exclusively for recreation, often as a venue for conversation, story
A narrative is a constructive format that describes a sequence of non-fictional or fictional events. The word derives from the Latin verb narrare, "to recount", and is related to the adjective gnarus, "knowing" or "skilled"...

telling; or song. Another traditional campfire activity involves impaling marshmallow
The marshmallow is a confection that, in its modern form, typically consists of sugar, corn syrup, water, gelatin that has been softened in hot water, dextrose, vanilla flavourings, and sometimes colouring, whipped to a spongy consistency. Some marshmallow recipes call for egg whites...

s on sticks or uncoiled wire coat hangers, and roasting them over the fire. Roasted marshmallows may also be used for s'more
A s'more is a traditional nighttime campfire treat popular in the United States and Canada consisting of a roasted marshmallow and a layer of chocolate sandwiched between two pieces of graham cracker.-Etymology and origins:...


Ash tradition

The campfire ash tradition may be found in Scouting
Scouting, also known as the Scout Movement, is a worldwide youth movement with the stated aim of supporting young people in their physical, mental and spiritual development, that they may play constructive roles in society....

 throughout the world. There may be an introduction and closing to it at the end of a campfire ceremony or individuals may partake of this tradition on their own. Scouts do not necessarily encounter this tradition.

Lord Robert Baden-Powell
Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell
Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, Bt, OM, GCMG, GCVO, KCB , also known as B-P or Lord Baden-Powell, was a lieutenant-general in the British Army, writer, and founder of the Scout Movement....

, the founder of Scouting and the Chief Scout of the World, would gather some of the ashes and mix them in a cup of water for all scouts to drink from. This ash tradition represents the friendship and Scouting Spirit shared by Scouts and Guides at campfires around the world.


Beside the danger of people receiving burns from the fire or embers, campfires may spread into a larger fire. A campfire may burn out of control in two basic ways: on the ground or in the tree
A tree is a perennial woody plant. It is most often defined as a woody plant that has many secondary branches supported clear of the ground on a single main stem or trunk with clear apical dominance. A minimum height specification at maturity is cited by some authors, varying from 3 m to...

s. Dead leaves
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

 or pine needles on the ground may ignite from direct contact with burning wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

, or from thermal radiation
Thermal radiation
Thermal radiation is electromagnetic radiation generated by the thermal motion of charged particles in matter. All matter with a temperature greater than absolute zero emits thermal radiation....

. Alternatively, airborne ember
Embers are the glowing, hot coals made of greatly heated wood, coal, or other carbon-based material that remain after, or sometimes precede a fire. Embers can glow very hot, sometimes as hot as the fire which created them...

s (or their smaller kin, sparks
Embers are the glowing, hot coals made of greatly heated wood, coal, or other carbon-based material that remain after, or sometimes precede a fire. Embers can glow very hot, sometimes as hot as the fire which created them...

) may ignite dead material in overhanging branch
A branch or tree branch is a woody structural member connected to but not part of the central trunk of a tree...

es. This latter threat is less likely, but a fire in a branch will be virtually impossible to put out without firefighting equipment, and may spread more quickly than a ground fire. Hence, many campgrounds include fire rings to prevent this from occurring.

Embers may simply fall off logs and be carried away by the air, or they may be ejected at high speed by exploding pockets of sap
Sap may refer to:* Plant sap, the fluid transported in xylem cells or phloem sieve tube elements of a plant* Sap , a village in the Dunajská Streda District of Slovakia...

. With these dangers in mind, some places prohibit all open fires, particularly during times of the year that are prone to wildfire
A wildfire is any uncontrolled fire in combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. Other names such as brush fire, bushfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, squirrel fire, vegetation fire, veldfire, and wilkjjofire may be used to describe the same...


Campfires are prohibited in many public camping areas. Public areas with large tracts of woodland
Ecologically, a woodland is a low-density forest forming open habitats with plenty of sunlight and limited shade. Woodlands may support an understory of shrubs and herbaceous plants including grasses. Woodland may form a transition to shrubland under drier conditions or during early stages of...

 usually have signs indicating the level of fire danger, which usually depends on recent rain and the amount of deadfalls or dry debris. When the danger is highest, all open fires are prohibited. Even in safer times, it is common to require registration and permits to build a campfire. Such areas are often kept under observation by rangers
Park ranger
A park ranger or forest ranger is a person entrusted with protecting and preserving parklands – national, state, provincial, or local parks. Different countries use different names for the position. Ranger is the favored term in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Within the United...

, who will dispatch someone to investigate any unidentified plume of smoke.

Extinguishing the fire

Leaving a fire unattended can be dangerous. Any number of accidents might occur in the absence of people, leading to property damage, personal injury or possibly a wildfire. Ash is a very good insulator
Thermal insulation
Thermal insulation is the reduction of the effects of the various processes of heat transfer between objects in thermal contact or in range of radiative influence. Heat transfer is the transfer of thermal energy between objects of differing temperature...

, so embers left overnight will only lose a fraction of their heat. It is even possible to restart the new day's fire by using the embers as an igniting device.

Large amounts of water can be very useful for extinguishing a fire. To properly cool a fire, water should be splashed on all the embers, including places that are not glowing red. Splashing the water is both more effective and efficient in extinguishing the fire. The water will boil violently and carry ash in the air with it, dirtying anything nearby but not posing a safety hazard. The water should be poured until the hissing noises stop. Then the ashes should be stirred with a stick to make sure that the water has penetrated all the layers; if the hissing continues, more water should be added. A fire is fully extinguished if the ashes are cool to the touch.

If water is scarce, sand may be used. The sand will deprive the fire of oxygen quite well, but it is much less effective than water at absorbing heat. Once the fire has been covered thoroughly with sand, all water that can be spared should be poured on it, and the sand stirred into the ash.

When winter or "ice" camping with an inch or more of snow on the ground, neither of the above protocols are necessary—simply douse visible flames before leaving.

Finally, in lightly used wilderness
Wilderness or wildland is a natural environment on Earth that has not been significantly modified by human activity. It may also be defined as: "The most intact, undisturbed wild natural areas left on our planet—those last truly wild places that humans do not control and have not developed with...

 areas, it is best to replace anything that was moved while preparing the fire site, and scatter anything that was gathered, so that it looks as natural as possible. Make absolutely certain that anything that was in or near the fire is fully cooled before following this protocol.

See also

  • Camping
  • Colored fire
    Colored fire
    Colored fire is a common pyrotechnic effect used in stage productions, fireworks and by fire performers the world over. Generally, the color of a flame may be red, orange, yellow, or white, and is dominated by blackbody radiation from soot and steam...

  • Fire pan
    Fire pan
    A fire pan is a pan for holding or conveying fire which is often used as method for building a Leave No Trace fire.- Background :Fire pans were initially used by river guides to minimize the impact of their fires but they are becoming increasingly popular with backpackers, campers and other outdoor...

  • Outdoor cooking

External links