Wildfires cause great damage to California’s natural and cultural resources, the wildlife that inhabit them, and personal property and homes. Arson is not the singular reason behind wildfires as negligent behavior can trigger the spark that leads to disaster. According to the U.S. Forest Service, over 75,000 wildfires occur in the United States, with nine out of ten caused by human error. We encourage you to enjoy California safely and responsibly, and help reduce wildfires when on your adventures with the safety tips below.
- Clear all flammable material away from the fire’s edge 5 feet in all directions to prevent escape of the fire.
- Have a shovel available at the campfire site for preparing and extinguishing campfires.
- Have a responsible person in attendance at all times.
- Extinguish campfires with water, using the Drown, Stir, and Feel method.
Camping Fire Safety – How to Build an Open Campfire
Select a level, open location away from heavy fuels such as logs, brush or decaying leaves and needles. Clear an area at least 10 feet in diameter (local regulations may vary). Scrape away grass, leaves or needles down to the mineral soil. Scoop a depression in the center of the cleared area in which to build the fire and put a ring of rocks around it. Cut wood in short lengths, pile within cleared area and light the fire. The fire should be built no larger than necessary. Your fire must never be left unattended and the fire must be extinguished completely before leaving.
While the Fire is Burning – Open Fire Safety
Always keep a shovel and bucket of water nearby at all times. While the fire is burning, be sure there is a responsible person in attendance of the fire at all times. Never leave children around a fire unattended.
How to Completely Extinguish an Open Campfire
Use the “drown, stir and feel” method: drown the fire with water, then stir around the fire area with your shovel to wet any remaining embers and ash. Be sure to turn wood and coals over and wet all sides. Move some dirt onto the fire site and mix thoroughly to fully smother it. And finally, feel the area with the back of your hand to ensure nothing is still smoldering.
Many non-state park campgrounds require you to pre-apply for a campfire permit. Campfire Permits are designed for use on federally controlled lands including those falling under the US Forest Service, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management, and private lands that are the property of another person. On private lands you must also have written permission from the landowner for campfire use.
Apply for campfire permit by clicking here.
Please Note: Permits are required for open fires, such as campfires, barbecues and portable stoves.
Vehicle and Towing Safety
- Secure Chains
- Practice safe towing as dragging chains can throw sparks. Be sure to use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains
- No Dragging Parts
- Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained with nothing dragging on the ground.
- Check Tire Pressure
- Maintain proper tire pressure. Driving on exposed wheel rims will throw sparks.
- Carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and learn how to properly use it.
- Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush. Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires that you won’t even see – until it is too late!
- Properly Maintain Brakes
- Brakes worn too thin may cause metal to metal contact, which can cause a spark.
Thank you for loving California and sharing that love.