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Enjoying campfires safely

Take steps to make sure your campfire doesn't go from this ...
Take steps to make sure your campfire doesn't go from this ...

Alexandra Pope, staff writer

May 17, 2012 — For many people, enjoying an evening around the campfire is a beloved tradition. But without proper safety precautions, fires can quickly get out of control.

... to this
... to this

It's a weekend often referred to as the "unofficial start of summer." And with the May long weekend right around the corner, many Canadians will be packing up their cars and heading off to cottages and campgrounds. 

For some, this weekend's plans will also include lighting a campfire. But do you know how to light - and put out - those fires safely?

According to Natural Resources Canada, around 9,000 forest fires occur every year across the country -- and two-thirds of them are caused by people. Every year, fires burn an average of 2.5 million hectares of forest and cost about $400 million to fight. 

That's why it's important to take steps to protect yourself and the environment by enjoying campfires safely. Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources offers tips for building a safe campfire. 

  • Choose a safe site for your campfire. Pick a site close to a water source, sheltered from the wind, at least 15 meters from buildings and tents and at least three meters away from logs, bushes and overhanging branches. 

  • Prepare the site. Use designated fire pits where possible. If a fire pit is not available, build your fire on a rock surface or bare dirt. Clear a space about two meters wide, being sure to brush away all pine needles, twigs, grass and leaves. Make sure you have a bucket of water and a shovel close by. 

  • Build your fire. Build your fire like a teepee, with a layer of kindling surrounded by logs. Keep the fire small -- no more than one meter tall and one meter wide. Small fires are easier to control. Never leave a fire unattended.

Fire bans are in effect in parts of Canada this weekend
Fire bans are in effect in parts of Canada this weekend

Drown! Stir! Drown! 

When it's time to extinguish the campfire, the OMNR says it's important to be thorough. 

First, drown the fire with water. Then, stir the ashes with a stick to uncover any hot coals. Drown the fire again. Hold your hand over the ashes to ensure they have cooled. Don't leave the fire until you're certain it's completely extinguished. 
Before starting any fire, it's important to find out whether any local or provincial fire bans are in effect. During prolonged periods of dry, hot weather, municipalities and even provincial bodies will restrict open burning to prevent human-caused forest fires. 

It's been a week of forest fire activity across the Prairies, and fire bans are in effect for some regions. Keep track of the fire risk across Canada this weekend by visiting our Forest Fire Watch: Fire Danger Map

With files from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. 

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