Campfires in British Columbia
For many campers a campfire is an intimate bond with nature that is linked to a set of unique traditions. For some, it recalls warm childhood memories of times spent with family sharing stories, singing songs or roasting marshmallows.
Most campgrounds in British Columbia, whether they are private campgrounds or RV parks, provincial parks, recreation sites (forestry sites), or national parks, allow campfires unless there is a fire restriction brought on by prolonged dry hot conditions.
What to do during campfire restrictions and bans
Forest fires are a major threat to British Columbia’s forests. On average there are 2,000 forest fires per year of which over 40% are caused by people. Campfire restrictions and bans occur when conditions are extremely dry and fire risk is very serious.
When there is a fire restriction campers can still enjoy an authentic campfire experience by using a portable campfire device that is CSA or ULC approved, as a safe alternative. The flame length of portable campfires should not exceed 15 centimetres (6 inches). Portable campfires are spark and smoke free and provide campers with comfort and heat. Many include a cooking rack allowing campers to make cowboy coffee or cook with a skillet.
Portable campfires can be purchased at local hardware, camping or RV retailers. Some campgrounds including many BC Parks and Private Campgrounds rent propane campfires for camper use. Please note though, that when conditions warrant, portable campfire and stove devices may be further restricted or even prohibited. For more information on local conditions, or on acceptable portable stove and campfire devices, click here.
Before building a campfire in British Columbia, there are certain provincial rules that campers need to follow. Failure to comply with these rules could result in a $345 fine. An additional $345 fine would be levied for campfires being lit during a ban.
- Campfires are prohibited in an area which has fire restrictions or bans. It is the campers’ responsibility to find out what areas have campfire prohibitions and restrictions.
- Campfires require a fireguard, this means scraping down the dirt one metre high around the fire and removing flammable items, such as twigs, leaves, needles etc…
- Campers must have at least 8 litres of water and/or a shovel to properly extinguish the fire.
- Fires are not to be larger than 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres or approximately 19 inches by 19 inches.
- Campfires are never to be left unattended.
- When leaving the campfire, it must be properly extinguished so ashes are cool to touch.
Safe campfire practices
- Be responsible and safe.
- Check with regional fire regulations and weather conditions before building a campfire.
- Be confident and ensure that your campfire could not start a wildfire in the surrounding forests.
- Fires should be built away from flammable items, such as tents, overhanging trees, camp chairs and awnings etc…
- It is prohibited to use flammable fluids to start a fire.
- Respect and conserve living trees and species.
- Buy and burn firewood sourced locally.
- Do not transport firewood. Pests, such as insects and invasive disease can destroy our forests.
- Keep the fire small and controlled. Larger fires can grow out of control quickly and are harder to extinguish.
- Limit burning hours. This helps to conserve firewood, improve air quality and reduce risk of forest fires.
- Do not burn garbage or trash. This can create unpleasant smells for neighbours, add to air pollution, attract bears and leave a mess behind.
- Be certain that the campfire is extinguished before leaving it. Pour water and stir the fire. When done, sift your fingers through ashes to make sure it is out.
- When a fire is completely extinguished there is no heat, smoke or steam.
- Avoid any action that will cause a spark, such as metal scraping on metal, or on a rock.
- All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) produce a massive amount of heat and their exhaust systems can cause fire to brush.
- To report a forest or unattended fire in British Columbia call *5555 on your mobile phone or toll free 1-800-663-5555. This is a free province-wide emergency number.
Front country campgrounds (campgrounds that have vehicle access and amenities)
Most supervised front country campgrounds both the private sector and BC parks will have a metal fire ring and quiet time rules to manage campfires.
Often cut firewood can be purchased at private or provincial campgrounds.
Don’t use dead wood as it is an important habitat element for many plants and animals; it also provides organic matter to soil.
When you depart from a campground, leave remaining firewood behind. Transport of wood to a different habitat can spread invasive disease and insects to the forest and natural habitat.
Back Country Campgrounds (campgrounds that are not vehicle accessible and have no amenities)
Campers going into the backcountry campgrounds need to check if there are fire restrictions or bans in that specific area.
Check with campground staff and websites, such as BC Parks, Recreation Sites and Trails or Parks Canada about their protected areas that may disallow campfires before visiting parks.