Wildfire season is in full swing in Arizona, just in time for people to dig out their tents and hit the campgrounds. While some people have the mindset that it’s not camping if you can’t have a campfire, there are ways to enjoy a trip to the forest without burning it down.
Before you load up the sleeping bags and S’mores, check to see if there is a fire ban in the area where you’ll be pitching your tent.
- Tonto National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.
- Coconino National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/coconino/
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/asnf/
- Prescott National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/prescott/
- Kaibab National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/kaibab
- Coronado National Forest: https://www.fs.usda.gov/coronado/
BUILD A SAFE FIRE
If there are no fire bans, be sure to build a proper campfire.
Clear a 10-foot diameter area around the campfire site. Remove grass, twigs, leaves and firewood. Dig a pit about a foot deep and circle the pit with rocks.
Fill a bucket of water to keep nearby before you light your fire.
Keep a shovel next to your water bucket. This can be used to throw dirt on a fire and to help stir the water into the coals when you need to put it out.
STARTING A GOOD FIR
For great tips on starting a great campfire, learn from Smokey the Bear.
KEEP YOUR FIRE SAFE
Never burn dangerous things like aerosol cans, pressurized containers, glass, or aluminum cans. They could explode, shatter, and/or create harmful fumes or dust.
EXTINGUISH YOUR FIRE ALL THE WAY
If possible, allow your wood to burn completely to ash (but don’t leave it unattended at any time). Pour lots of water on the fire, taking care to drown ALL the embers, not just the red ones. Listen for the hissing sound to stop. If you don’t have water, stir dirt or sand into the embers with a shovel to bury the fire. Make sure no embers or exposed or smoldering. REMEMBER: If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
USE PROPANE INSTEAD
You can now purchase propane campfires for those times when you can’t or don’t want to build a fire. Although it doesn’t replace the smell and sound of a real campfire, it is a useful alternative. Some come with an additional cooktop to boil water or cook over the flames.
SKIP FIRE ALTHOGETHER
Camping can still be enjoyable without any source of fire. Plan for no-cook foods like hard boiled eggs, tuna, jerky, peanut butter, granola, nuts, and dried fruit. At night, prepare for some awesome stargazing. Download a stargazing app to help you identify the constellations, or go analog with a star wheel or stargazing book. Instead of campfire stories, bring along mythological stories that are based on the constellations and planets. Play card games with a battery-powered light or read stories together. Or reset your circadian rhythm by going to bed with the sun and rising with the sun.
Camping doesn’t have to be cancelled just because fires are banned. And you can safely enjoy a campfire without decimating the forest in the process.
For more information about campfire safety, visit the tried and true https://smokeybear.com/.