Currently, the United States spends about $3 billion a year to put out fires in its parks and forests.
The National Park Service estimates that people are responsible for almost 85% of wildland fires. According to experts, the main causes of these wildfires were fires left unattended, the burning of debris, irresponsibly thrown cigarettes, and purposeful acts of arson.
The Washington Post reports that some fire officials are restricting or banning outside fires like campfires due to the mega-drought, larger and longer wildfires, and record-breaking heat waves. According to the U.S. Forest Service, over the past ten years, these factors were responsible for 30% of wildfires.
According to the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) data, as of December 30, 2022, a total of 66,255 fires had consumed 7,534,403 acres.
How to Stop a Bonfire from Spreading into a Wildfire
A bonfire can be a great source of warmth and light on a chilly night, but it can also pose a significant risk of spreading into a wildfire. A wildfire is a large uncontrollable fire that can spread quickly and cause widespread damage to the environment and property. Here are some tips on how to stop a bonfire from spreading into a wildfire.
Select the Proper Location
Consider the position of neighboring trees and brush while deciding where to build your fire. Your fire should ideally be at least 10 feet away from combustible vegetation and bushes. A small wildfire may easily be started by a stray ember reaching a nearby tree.
Utilize a Fire Ring
A quick and simple approach to control your campfire is to create a fire ring around it. A fire ring is simply a circle of medium-sized rocks arranged around the campfire’s perimeter in the most basic sense. It serves only to contain the fire and keep it from spreading. Wherever you are camping, there might already be existing fire rings that other campers have left behind that you can usually use to make your campfire.
Make a Hole
To properly manage your fire, you should still dig a tiny pit in the middle of the fire ring, even if you utilize one. It doesn’t need to be deep; a few inches will generally be sufficient to contain the fire.
Think About the Wind
You may have trouble managing your fire if the wind is blowing in either a dangerous or unfavorable direction. Your campfire or bonfire could get out of hand if you build it downwind and there is a brush a short distance further downwind. For this reason, the majority of outdoor authorities advise constructing campfires next to a natural windbreak, such as a ridge or sizable rock.
Have Water Available
Keep some water close to your campfire as a safety precaution. Hopefully, it won’t happen, but if it does, you can put out a campfire by sprinkling water on the flames. Dousing the flames and ash in water before leaving is a good idea even if your campfire doesn’t spread. By doing this, you can rest easy knowing that it has been completely put out.
What To Do Before Starting A Bonfire?
Before starting a bonfire, it’s important to check the weather conditions. Avoid lighting a fire on windy nights especially with lighter fluid, as this can increase the risk of the fire spreading.
Make sure it is legal to start a fire where you intend to do so. Know the rules and regulations in your area, as different states have different laws regarding backyard fires and portable fire pits.
For a safe fire pit installation, choose a level spot in your backyard that is positioned at least 15 feet away from nearby homes and 10 feet away from flammable structures like wooden sheds, bushes, and trees.
Make sure to locate it at a safe distance from property lines.
Be prepared in case of an emergency by having garden hoses or buckets of water readily available. It’s crucial to be ready to act quickly if the fire starts to spread.
Stay vigilant and keep an eye on the fire and anyone who may be nearby. This will help ensure the safety of those around you.
Avoid burning materials that contain paint, or foam, or are flammable, such as aerosols and cans. These items can release hazardous gasses and potentially explode, causing harm to people and starting fires.
Ensure the wood you are burning is dry, seasoned, and free of any toxic materials. Do not burn treated furniture, railroad ties, or any other coated materials.
To keep the fire under control, make sure the pile does not exceed 5 feet by 5 feet.
When the bonfire is finished, use metal shovels and rakes to turn over the burned materials and douse the area with water.
Wear non-flammable clothing, such as long pants and a heavy shirt, when lighting, tending to or putting out the fire. Avoid wearing flip-flops or rubber sneakers, as they can easily catch fire from sparks.
Also, be mindful of alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can impair judgment and increase the risk of accidents, such as getting too close to the fire or throwing in inappropriate materials.
What to Do if a Fire Becomes Unmanageable?
There are a few things you may do if you find yourself in this scenario. First, try to put out the fire as quickly as you can by dousing it with water and stomping out any embers that accumulate.
Try to clear any flammable materials from the fire’s path if it appears like the fire is spreading swiftly in one direction and you are unable to completely put it out.
This can provide you with a better angle to attack the fire once more when it gets to that point. But if things get to this point, assign someone to call the emergency services.
Work in two main teams, if you can, with one team taking children and people to safety and the other team attempting to put out the fire.
When the duty of transferring items to safety is finished, the second group can help the first group in putting out the fire.
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Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash