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January 19, 2012
Survival Skills: The Safest Spots To Build Your Fire - 1
by Tim MacWelch
Before you start building your campfire, you need to have some firewood gathered, and you need to carefully pick the place to light this new fire.
Are all prospective fireplaces equal?
Nope, they’re not equal. And here’s a quick rundown of the safest places to set up your new hearth.
Never build a fire closer than 10 feet from any shelter. Natural shelters like lean-to’s and huts can quickly ignite from a tiny spark. Popping sparks can easily burn holes in nylon tents and tarps, too. Make sure the wind is not blowing from the fire to the shelter, as some sparks can travel on the breeze.
Most of us reading this will want to put the campfire east of the shelter, as the prevailing winds are westerly across much of the northern hemisphere. While you’re at it, choose an area with plenty of wind blocks, such as rocks, fallen trees, and bushes located a safe distance from the fire. This will prevent the wind from blowing away extra sparks and retain more of the heat from the fire.
You are not a caveman
Never build a fire under a rock overhang or in a cave. The heat could cause the rock to expand, with sections cracking and breaking, and possibly falling down on you and your fire.
Never build a fire under dead overhanging evergreen boughs and limbs with lots of dead needles, even if they are high above the fire. The heat could ignite them. Also, if there is snow on limbs above the fire, it will melt and fall on the fire (probably putting it out) just as it did in the famous wilderness story.
Never build fires close to dried brush, grasslands or other flammable areas. In other environments, select an area that is relatively free of leaves, dead grass and other flammables. If not, clear the ground of flammable materials at least four feet from the fire in all directions, making an overall 10 foot circle with nothing burnable inside. Also dig down to check the ground for dead dry root systems, dry humus, duff, peat or other flammable materials. These can also start fires. Don't build fires next to rotten stumps and dead trees. The rotten wood and tree roots may smolder for a long time, starting a forest fire days later. Scary…
So here’s to safe and easy fires for you, and plenty of water to put them out when you’re done. Please take a second to tell us about your best or worst campfire locations in the comments. Thanks for reading.