Everything you need to know about safely enjoying a campfire

There’s only one thing better than relaxing around the campfire in a park – and that’s doing it safely. Here’s how.

If you’re looking forward to snuggling around a campfire on your next camping trip in a national park, make sure you do the right thing. There are some important rules and safety measures you need to follow to make sure you and our natural environments stay safe.

Before you set off on your visit, there’s a few things you need to consider:

  • Check whether a campfire is allowed in the park you want to visit, as many national parks don’t allow solid fuel fires (wood and charcoal) at any time. Visit the National Parks and Wildlife Service’s website and use the find a park tool to refine your search to ‘Campfires (seasonal restrictions apply)’. This will display all the parks that allow campfires.
  • In parks where fires are permitted, they’re only allowed outside of the Fire Danger Season for that region. Each park is unique, so check the safety tab on the individual park page for Fire Danger Season dates and rules specific to that park, or refer to this full list of park fire restrictions.
  • Make sure you bring your own firewood, as collecting firewood within national parks is prohibited. Ensure the firewood is free from dirt and weeds, to avoid bringing pest species into the park.

Now it’s time to build your campfire.

Building a safe campfire

Firefighters say there are six basic rules for building a safe campfire:

  1. Fires should be lit in cleared areas, where there are no overhanging branches and minimal grass and scrub.
  2. Ensure the campfire is a safe distance from tents, and that any other camping equipment is stored well away from it – especially flammable items such as gas cylinders, fuel cans etc.
  3. Where possible, use a designated fireplace such as a barbeque pit. In some parks this is your only option.
  4. Never use any kind of flammable liquid on a fire – even when you are trying to get it started.
  5. Have a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.
  6. Put out your campfires with a good amount of water, not sand or dirt.

Also, make sure that children are kept at least 1 metre away from the campfire so they don’t trip and fall into the fire.

Safest way to put out a campfire

Remember, a campfire must never be left unattended. Stay safe by putting campfires out with water, not sand or dirt.

Kicking a bit of dirt or sand on the fire to put it out isn’t smart because it stays hot for more than eight hours. This means if you or your kids or the next campers to use the site later touch the dirt-covered fire for just a second, it can still be extremely hot and it will burn skin.

Be smart – only put your campfire out with water. In 10 minutes, it cools below 50 degrees and in eight hours it’s harmless.

If your clothes catch on fire:

  • Stop, cover, drop and roll.
  • Extinguish areas with water if it’s still on fire.
  • Remove clothing unless it’s stuck/melted.

First aid for all burn injuries

  • Remove any clothing and jewellery. Clothes hold in the heat and can make a burn worse.
  • Never use ice, butter, toothpaste or creams.
  • Apply 20 minutes of cool running water.
  • Cover the area with a clean cloth or clean plastic cling wrap (do not use cling wrap for the face).
  • Seek medical advice if the skin is broken or the burn area is larger than a 20 cent piece.

This post was created in collaboration with SA Health. For more information on burns and safety:

  • SA Health Women’s and Children’s Hospital Burns Service

    Phone (08) 8161 7000

  • Royal Adelaide Hospital Burns Unit

    Phone (08) 8222 4000

  • Parent Helpline (24 hr service)
    Phone 1300 364 100

Be prepared for your long weekend break with these eight essential items. If it’s your first time camping, check out our tips for happy campers, and if you’ve got the kids in tow, here’s our pointers for a stress-free family holiday.

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