Knowing how to make a fire while enjoying the great outdoors can literally save your life. It can also boost morale on a cold day of camping, hiking and/or hunting. It is that picturesque moment of good memories. We all can agree we love sitting around the fire, but with that comes the responsibility of being safe, before, during and after the fire is out.
The spring snow has melted and the mountains and valleys have come back to life with vibrant grasses, and colorful buds on the tree branches. The streams are full and moving quickly as the snow up high constantly melts. Off in the distance on a South facing slope, next to an old dead tree a plume of smoke is slowly rising from the earth. One would think it was just steam from the morning’s frost, but in fact there is a ground fire smoldering. Did you know that 85% of wildfires are started by humans? Did you know the small fire you sat around in late November was never fully put out and has been burning underground, insulated by the snow all winter long?
What is a ground fire?
A ground fire is started when the deep underground consists of old dry materials such as logs, and roots. If you don’t put your fire out completely the underground organic material will start to smolder. Because of the small open space underground that the roots and logs create, it allows oxygen to flow through, keeping the embers smoldering throughout the winter.
Typically in years of drought these ground fires will be more prevalent, regardless one must always take action to insure their fire is completely out before walking away. As outdoor enthusiasts and stewards of the land it is our responsibility to safely build and enjoy a fire, but most importantly how to put it out.
Safety Tips on Building and Putting out Fires
- Always check the wind conditions before starting a fire.
- Don’t start a fire if you don’t have any water to put it out with.
- Build your fire in a flat and open location away from any flammables.
- Dig out the earth, removing twigs, leaves and grasses, all the way to the mineral soil. Clean the area around your fire pit.
- Stay with your fire.
- Allow the wood to burn to ash.
- When putting out the fire douse the fire until it is cold. To help ensure it’s completely out, stir the coals and then add more water. It should be cold to the touch before you walk away. Put the stick used to stir into the wet, and cold ashes when done.
Other safety articles that may interest you: Summer Safety: Grilling Safety Tips