Safety precautions and common sense can prevent wildfires

author image

February 4, 2012

By Bob Difley

wildfire_texas2The BLM has issued a warning for Northern Nevada on the lack of moisture and warm day time temperatures and that campers and boondockers must use caution when building fires. The dry state of already dry BLM land in other states calls for the same measures.

Texas, for instance, has had its driest year in decades, and you’ve seen what happened to the state as wildfires ravaged millions of acres. Little rain or snow has fallen in any of the southwestern deserts and wildfire danger is very high. As a result of these conditions and to remind fire builders, the BLM published these guidelines for building a campfire.

  • Park vehicles so that the exhaust system does not come in contact with the dry grass, weeds or leaves.
  • If off-road vehicle use is allowed, internal combustion equipment requires a spark arrester. Please stay on designated roads and trails.
  • When burning debris check local weather conditions, have water nearby and available and know your counties outdoor burning policies.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. Leave campsite as clean and natural as possible. Remember the basic rule of, “Pack In Pack Out”.
  • Never use any type of fireworks on public lands.
  • Keep stoves, lanterns and heaters away from combustibles and never use inside a tent.

I would add the following:

  • Don’t build a fire when the wind is blowing hard.
  • Keep a bucket handy to use to throw water on any errant sparks that escapes and to drown your final fire.
  • Use a folding shovel to clear debris from around your fire area and to bury coals when finished.
  • Feel the ashes after you put out the fire. They must be cold to the touch. A wind could come along and refresh even the smallest hot spot into a new uncontrolled fire.

Check out my website for more RVing tips, RV destinations, and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands (click here for Kindle version), Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (Kindle version).

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  446. JC

    “DO NOT hang a lantern from a nail or spike driven into a tree truck.”

    I agree with the fire danger potential, but how about not driving a nail or spike into a tree in the first place!? If I need to hang/lash something to a convenient tree, I use a rope to avoid any damage to the tree.

  447. Don

    A bucket is good, but I prefer to use a garden sprayer, 2 gallons and you can direct the stream rather than having to run back and forth to fill the bucket. A 1 or 1.5 gallon sprayer takes up about as much space as a bucket and can be used to chase embers if necessary.

    Keep in mind that if something goes wrong and starts to spread, call for the professionals before you try to do anything.

  448. Gary

    On your tips of safety with lanterns and such you forgot one thing. I have witnessed this myself. DO NOT hang a lantern from a nail or spike driven into a tree truck.. The bark is like tinder and will catch fire if not watched carefully. I had to tell campers to remove the Coleman lantern as the tree was smoking. Probably 10-20 minutes and a fire would be started. The campers were oblivious to anything. Thanks for the words, they are needed.

  449. William Fincher

    Great input from all who responded. When we are boondocking out in the
    back country of so.Ca. we dig a pit and put the dirt up around the outside
    of the pit with rocks if available.This is our fire pit that is safe as possible.
    And we dont shoot firearms in dry conditions,nor opreate vehicles that
    have no spark arrestors.
    Go camp,be safe.

  450. Bob

    This is good advice, but think you are preaching to the Choir. People that read this article have common sense, it’s the other people we are concern about!!!!!

  451. When we volunteered as Camp Hosts in Ridgway State Park – Colorado State Parks, we were whiteness to far to many campers who left campfires unattended and or still burning when they left. Scary!

  452. Liz Bard

    Even though we have had a lot of rain recently, we are still at least a foot or more below normal and our lakes are still low.

    Also, remember if you are traveling and boondocking in these areas, make sure you are not in a dry wash and watch for low water crossings during the rain and after. Several people have died due to drowning.

    Come to Texas but be careful this time of year.

  453. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Bob,

    Very good advice!!! Just use common sense, but most will say WE’RE NOT COMMON…

  454. Tom S

    3 years ago I purchased a “Little Red Campfire”. This propane campfire solves almost all of the open fire concerns. When we go to bed at night, I turn off the gas and the flame is gone.I usually wait for 2 minutes until the heat has dissipated from the man-made charcoal.

    Of course, I still don’t fire it up on or around dry grass. That’s just common sense……. but the older I get the more I realize that common sense isn’t all that common.