How To Build A Campfire
When building a campfire, always have the fire inside a designated fire pit or makeshift ring away from trees to protect the area from any danger of spreading. The key to a successful and safe campfire is to start small and gradually build it bigger so it remains contained at a controlled rate of burn. Never light a campfire or let it burn in windy conditions or leave a campfire unattended.
Before starting, verify where your closest water source is and have a pail on hand, then clear away any twigs and leaves that could ignite from sparks. Keep a shovel or large stick nearby should you need to poke the logs or put out the fire. Note that in BC Parks, campfires must not be larger than a half a metre high and wide.
Kindling: Small, thinly split/chopped wood no bigger than 1″ (2.5 cm).
Fuel: Larger pieces of wood or small logs, on average 6-8” (15-25 cm) in diameter or easy enough to hold in one hand. Keep these stacked upwind, away from the fire.
Campfire wood and kindling can be purchased at most campgrounds. Never transport the unused logs from one campsite to another as this can spread pests and disease; leave it behind for the next campers or return it to the camp office.
If chopping your own wood, never cut at whole trees – dead or alive – as birds and small animals may make their homes in them.
Building a Campfire
- For the tinder/base layer (that which you want to catch the spark) use kindling and scrunched newspaper if available. If you are using small twigs and they do not snap easily they are too green and will not burn well.
- Place a couple of handfuls of your tinder loosely into the middle of the campfire pit.
- Put your back to the wind to protect the lighting flame from extinguishing. (This applies whether using matches or lighter.)
- Ignite the bottom of the tinder. Remember, fire burns up.
- Add more tinder as necessary.
- Blow gently at the base of the fire to increase the size of the fire and intensity of heat.
- Once the kindling has started to burn, place larger pieces of wood over it. Put it close enough to allow fire to catch but far enough away to ensure air flow between the pieces.
- As fire catches the smaller pieces of kindling, gradually add larger ones. If you only have wet kindling, the tinder will need to burn longer to dry it out.
- After the fire has started to catch the larger pieces of kindling, add the larger logs/chopped wood to fuel your fire.
- Again, verify there is enough space for oxygen to pass through the fire and wood.
Different Types of Fires
While tepee fires are the most effective of all fire types they burn through wood quickly. This fire type has concentrated heat in one spot that works well for quick cooking and is good for burning wet and green wood.
Lay the pieces of kindling and larger chopped wood over your tinder like a tepee, in a cone-shaped formation. The outside walls of the tepee will fall inward and feed the fire.
The hottest point of the tepee is at the top where oxygen combusts into fire. It’s a good idea to place sticks and wood with thicker ends at the top of the tepee fire.
Log Cabin Fire
These long-lasting fires, which form coals excellent for cooking, provide an even amount of temperature due to their square and uniform shape.
Using medium-sized bits of logs construct four walls in the shape of a square around an interior tepee and continue to lay them in an alternating pattern as you build up.
Try to build a chimney effect that will suck air through the bottom and exit with an intense flame at the top. Make sure that the walls have enough space from the base of the campfire pit up for oxygen flow.
Remember to keep your campfire under control and watch that kids, pets and even adults on flimsy campfire chairs don’t get too close to the flames! Before ‘lights out’ or leaving the area make sure your campfire is completely extinguished and the ashes are cool to the touch.
To report a wildfire, unattended campfire or open burning violation, call the BC Wildfire Service at 1 (800) 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.
Go to BC’s Wildfire Service for current Fire Bans and Restrictions.