Campfire Safety

I love camping. But the way in which I love it has changed a lot. In the days of yore (also known as university) it was all about the hardcore experience. If you didn’t hump your gear into the backcountry I thought you were a wimp. Then came marriage, the kidlet and the overwhelming convenience of car camping. Today, I can’t do more than three days in a tent unless it’s of the glamping variety. No Starbucks. No wifi. No way.

But the common thread in my camping evolution is the fire. The crackle, the mesmerizing glow, the familiar smell. The secrets you share and the plans you make around it. It’s a magical feeling — a feeling I’m now sharing with my girl. If you’re camping in BC’s beautiful backyard, don’t blow it for me and hundreds of others. Do your part to prevent wildfires by following some straight forward guidelines.

Bans and restrictions: These are put in place for good reason, namely during bone dry conditions and in advance of lightning storms. Mother Nature gives our firefighters enough to deal with. They don’t need to juggle human carelessness as well. You can check for prohibitions on If you’re uncertain if a ban applies to the area you’re in, call the closest regional fire centre. You’ll find all the numbers here.

Look up: When sussing out a spot for your campfire, low hanging branches are a problem. Aim for at least five feet of clearance. Another great rule of thumb is to locate your fire two wing spans (two people standing fingertip to fingertip, arms outstretched) away from overhanging tree limbs, wood buildings etc.


Look down: Don’t build your fire on combustible materials, in other words, it’s a bad idea to light it on a bed of needles, twigs or other debris.  If you don’t have the benefit of a fire ring, create one using rocks. Scrape down to the dirt and extend the cleared area for at least one metre around your fire. This is called a firebreak and will go a long way to preventing a whoopsie. 


Windy? Use common sense. If winds are strong and likely to spread sparks and embers, put your campfire on hold.

Size matters: In BC, campfires can’t be bigger than 0.5 metres in height by 0.5 metres in diameter. A lot of campgrounds have handy metal fire rings as a guide. Just don’t over stuff them. Remember, the best cooking fires are small and hot. If you’ll be camping in areas without rings, think about pre-measuring a guide. Mark 0.5 metres on your axe handle for example. Whatever gets the job done.


Keep it company: Never leave a campfire unattended. Enough said.

Put ‘er out: This is a no brainer, but surprisingly some people still walk away from campfires. Douse your fire with water, stir, repeat, then touch to make sure those ashes are cool. Always have at least eight litres of water or a shovel on hand in case your fire escapes.


Portable campfires: These are becoming more and more popular as a way to ensure there’s some kind of fire when wood campfires are restricted. That said, prohibitions can be put on these devices as well depending on local conditions. Be sure to check.