Understand campfire safety

An open campfire is a big part of camping, but if not constructed, used and extinguished correctly, can cause a bushfire.

When caravanning or camping, it’s important to know if you’re permitted to use an open flame of any sort. In summer, when the bushfire risk is extreme, lighting up on the wrong day could be breaking the law. That’s why it’s important to have a radio or Wi-Fi access to check the fire warnings and instructions at your campground.

Here’s some valuable advice from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

Before you light a fire:

  • Check the weather conditions in your camping area.
  • Do not light or maintain a campfire on dry, windy days.
  • Do not light or maintain a campfire when the Fire Danger Rating (FDR) is very high, severe, extreme or catastrophic.
  • Do not light a campfire during a Total Fire Ban (TFB). When a TFB is declared it is illegal to do anything that is likely to start a fire, including cooking outside using an open fire.
  • The fines are heavy and you can also serve jail time.

Tips for building your campfire safely

  • Camp in a safe location that is clear of flammable vegetation, such as long grass and spinifex.
  • Use a built fireplace where provided or dig a 30 cm deep trench to house the fire and prevent embers from flying out.
  • Create a border around the fire using large rocks.
  • Light the campfire in a cleared area and remove branches, leaves and twigs from the ground and above the flames, to create a clearing of three metres around the fire.
  • Ensure the fire is three metres away from tents and other camping equipment.
  • Store flammable items such as gas cylinders and fuel cans well away from the fire.
  • Never use flammable liquid or fuel such as petrol or diesel on a fire, even when you are trying to get it started.
  • Take the same safety precautions when using appliances with naked flames such as gas stoves and gas lanterns, as they can be blown over by wind and cause a fire.

Here’s how to build the perfect campfire.

Looking after your campfire

  • Keep the fire just big enough for cooking and keeping warm.
  • Never leave the fire unattended, not even for a minute. Extinguish it properly with water, not soil, even if you’re only going for a short walk or swim.
  • Extinguish your fire entirely at night, as many children are burnt by campfires in the morning from hot ashes and embers.
  • Always supervise children and pets when near a fire.
  • Use only fallen dead wood. Branches or leaves from living trees damages the environment and can cause high levels of smoke.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of emergencies.

Putting your campfire out

  • Make sure your fire is completely extinguished using water.
  • Do not use soil or sand, as fires can still smoulder under soil and can stay hot for more than eight hours, making it dangerous for anyone walking in the area once you have gone.

Basic campfire safety

  • Do not burn dangerous or flammable items, such as aerosol cans, as they can explode.
  • Cans and other aluminium products do not burn; take them with you to dispose of in rubbish bins.
  • Never put glass in your campfire as it will melt and shatter or explode.
  • Never put unopened tins of food on a fire to cook as they may explode and cause injuries.

Now that you understand campfire safety, it’s time to enjoy your campfire. Here are a few ideas for campfire desserts.