Sitting around a bonfire with family and friends is a fun pastime. When we roast marshmallows and spend time with friends, it’s easy to forget about the risk factors involved with outdoor fires. Here are some safety guidelines to follow before the first match is lit.
Bonfire safety guidelines
- Check the weather. Never build a bonfire on a high-wind night.
- Make sure the area where you start your bonfire is a legal location. Check your state’s laws and regulations about fires before you begin.
- Keep a bucket of water or garden hose nearby in case the fire begins to spread. It is important to be prepared in case of emergency.
- Keep a close eye on the bonfire as well as children nearby. This will help protect others around you.
- Do not burn aerosols, canisters or anything containing foam or paint. These types of chemicals have extremely flammable ingredients that can cause fire to spread or produce toxic fumes. Containers of these products could explode, causing injury.
- Ensure the wood you are burning is dry and seasoned. This means no railroad ties, nothing coated or treated and no furniture should be thrown in the fire.
- The pile shouldn’t be bigger than 5′ x 5′ to keep the flames containable.
- After the bonfire is done, turn over the charred materials with metal shovels and rakes, and douse the area with water.
Things to keep in mind
Wear appropriate clothing — wear non-flammable clothing when starting, sitting by or extinguishing the fire. Wear hard-soled shoes instead of rubber sneakers or flip flops, as leaping sparks could cause them to ignite.
Keep an eye on alcohol consumption — if you and your guests are enjoying an adult beverage or two around the bonfire, be mindful of your consumption. Too much alcohol can lead to clumsiness and careless behavior, such as getting too close to the fire or tossing in the wrong items.
Put out the fire safely — when the evening comes to a close, and you’ve let the fire burn out, use a shovel to spread out the ashes and let them cool down. Slowly pour water over the ashes and monitor them closely to be sure that no burning embers remain. Place the cooled ashes in a metal can that is designated for ash storage only. You should not leave the site until you know the fire is fully out.
According to the National Park Service, nearly 85 percent of wildland fires in the United States are caused by humans, in many cases resulting from campfires or bonfires left unattended with loose embers and burning debris. Knowing how to stay safe and what precautions to take while having a bonfire are essential to keeping everyone safe and having a good time.