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Creating a Campfire Site

Creating a campfire site and fire ring is a very important part of your family camping experience, even if you are only using the area for a coleman stove or other alternative cooking sources. By following these tips, you can have a spot that is fun, safe, and relatively bug free!

Many set campsites may already have fire rings set up and require you to use them. It never hurts to know how and why something is set up the way it is though. If your campsite already has a campfire site set up for you, look and see if it meets all of these safety guidelines.

First, look for an open area. It is very dangerous to light a fire near or under trees or bushes because sparks rising off of your fire can set branches on fire. Your fire should not be any bigger around (in diameter) that a bicycle tire, but you will need empty space around it for safety and for people to be able to move around the fire.

Before building your fire, make sure that any sparks coming from your fire won't drift from your site towards anything that will burn. One way to check this is to toss a piece of light, dry grass into the breeze and watch in which direction it is carried to be sure nothing burnable lies in the way. If its really windy, you shouldn't be lighting a fire at all! Another thing to be careful of is to not pitch your tent or other sleeping arrangements near the fire. The heat from the fire may damage the fabrics, plastics, or other materials.

To actually build your fire circle, you need to clear a circle 10 feet back from the center of the fire pit. This means clear it right down to bare soil. There shouldn't be any leaves, twigs, grass, moss, or anything inside that 10 feet circle.

In the center of your 10 feet circle, dig down two inches and check for any root system. Fire can spread through tree and grass roots without ever appearing on the surface until it is too late. If there is not root system, tamp the soil back in place firmly. This will be the base of your fire pit.

Contrary to what was done for many years, or what looks "authentic," you should not build a rock circle around your fire. Rock heats up and can crack or even explode, especially if it is wet!

To have a relatively bug-free campfire ring, avoid building your fire circle near places where bugs breed - still water, marshy areas, bog, slow streams, valley bottoms, and woody hollows, etc. Larger bodies of water, such as lakes and swifter moving rivers, often have enough breeze to blow away any offending bugs.

For safety's sake, always keep a pail of water, a large bucket of sand, and a shovel near the fire. This is not only useful for putting your fire out before you go to bed, but it is also good for putting out any stray sparks that may fly off of your fire.

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