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 roasting hotdogs and marshmallows. For others it means telling spooky stories or camping singalongs.
Most campgrounds in British Columbia, whether privately owned, provincial parks, recreation sites (forestry sites), or national parks, allow campfires unless there is a fire restriction or ban brought on by windy or prolonged dry, hot conditions. Many serviced campgrounds sell kindling and firewood.
It is the campers’ responsibility to find out what areas have fire bans and restrictions and, before building a campfire in BC, there are rules that need to be adhered to. Failure to comply could result in hefty bans. To quote the BC Wildfire Service: “If a violation causes a wildfire, the person responsible may also be ordered to pay all firefighting and associated costs.” A simple rule is: If the wind is strong enough to carry sparks to combustible material, don’t light a campfire.
The ‘dos’ of campfires:
- Use a designated campfire pit or construct a containment ring with rocks.
- Scrape down the dirt one metre around the fire area and remove flammable items, such as twigs, leaves and needles.
- Have at least 8 litres of water at hand and/or a shovel to properly extinguish it.
- Build the campfire no larger than 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres or approximately 19” x 19”.
- Never leave a campfire unattended.
- Properly extinguish it so ashes are cool to the touch.
Safe practice & useful information
- Buy and burn firewood sourced locally and do not transport it from campground to campground. ‘Travelling’ insects and pests can cause invasive disease in forests.
- Don’t use dead wood as it’s an important habitat element for many plants and animals; it also provides organic matter to soil.
- Build the campfire away from flammable items such as tents, awnings and camp chairs.
- Don’t use flammable fluids to start a fire. Use a lighter or match and tinder/kindling.
- Keep the fire small and controlled. Large fires can quickly become out of control and are harder to extinguish.
- Limit burning hours. This helps to conserve firewood, improve air quality and reduce the risk of a wildfire.
- Do not burn garbage. This can create unpleasant smells, add to air pollution, attract bears and it will likely leave a mess.
- To report a forest or unattended fire in British Columbia call *5555 on your mobile phone or toll-free: 1 (800) 663-5555.
- For recorded information on campfires, open fire prohibitions and travel restrictions from the BC Wildfire Service, call toll-free: 1 (888) 3FOREST / 1 (888) 336-7378.
Options during campfire restrictions
Forest fires and wildfires are a major threat to British Columbia’s forests. The current 10-year wildfire average in the province is 1,350 per year of which over 45% are caused by people.
During fire restrictions campers may be permitted to use outdoor stoves (for cooking) or spark and smoke-free portable campfire devices (for comfort or heat) that are CSA or ULC approved; the flame length of a portable campfire device must not exceed 15 cm (6”).
Some campgrounds, including many BC Parks and private campgrounds, rent propane campfires for camper use. When conditions warrant, portable campfire and stove devices may be prohibited. Visit the provincial government’s Wildfire Service webpage for further information on wildfire activity and prevention and fire restrictions and bans or consult the campgrounds you plan to visit ahead of your stay.