Campfires can be a thing of wonder and magic in the right setting. In the wrong one, they can be the center of disaster.
More wildfires in Utah originate from campfires than fireworks or even smoking, according to data collected by Kayli Yardley, the prevention and communications coordinator for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. They actually rank third among human-caused wildfires — as most fires are — behind agricultural and debris burns and those caused by vehicles.
But, according to the site UtahFireSense.org, nearly 30% of the state’s human-caused wildfires could be prevented if campers kept a closer eye on campfires and made sure they were properly extinguished.
With that in mind, here are five tips to help you make sure your campfire is cozy and not concerning:
1. Check fire regulations
Visit UtahFireInfo.org to find out if the area you plan to visit is under any fire restrictions. Stage 1 restrictions generally mean fires are only allowed in campgrounds or agency-established fire rings. Stage 2 restrictions ban all wood, briquette and charcoal fires, typically.
2. Mind the wind
Don’t start a fire on a windy day or where there is flammable material within three feet of the flames — even if you have a propane campfire, which often is allowed even during Stage 2 restrictions.
3. Feel the burn
To douse a fire, pour water over it, then stir it, then continue to pour and stir until it is no longer smoldering. Gently put the back of your hand on the coals to make sure it’s cool.
4. Be a good babysitter
Once it’s lit, a campfire needs to be watched until it is properly doused. It only takes a moment for an ember to break loose and catch fire. Just in case, keep water or a fire extinguisher nearby.
5. Take the heat
If your fire does escape your control, be sure to call local fire authorities or 911 right away. Campers whose campfires lead to wildfires can face criminal charges, but Yardley said that’s less likely to happen to those who speak up quickly rather than wait and see.