There is nothing quite like getting away from it all and spending time at one of the many scenic campsites in the area. Whether camping with your family or with your scout troop, be sure to follow all safety rules. Stick with the group when you're in the woods and carry a whistle in case you get separated. And remember, even a small campfire has the potential to spread and cause a great deal of damage. Here are some helpful tips so that you will be well-prepared for your camping trip:
- Before you leave, check the weather forecast and check with authorities at your camping location for any outdoor burning restrictions. During dry seasons, even recreational and cooking fires can be restricted.
- Some tents are manufactured from cotton, which is a flammable substance. Sometimes the fabric treatment used to make tents waterproof actually increases the flammability. Buy a tent that is flame retardant. Remember, "flame retardant" doesn't mean fire-proof. A flying ember from a fire can land on the tent and ignite it in seconds.
- Try to buy a tent with two exits and prepare an escape plan.
- There are other things in a tent that can burn such as sleeping bags, clothing and people. A tent should be sited a safe distance and upwind from any campfire, cooking or lighting devices.
- Create a three foot clearing around the tent. Only use battery-operated lights near or inside it. Always refuel any heat-producing appliance, such as lanterns and stoves, outside a tent. Never use matches, candles or an open flame in your tent. Always store flammable liquids, such as gasoline, outside a tent.
- Don't cook inside a tent.
- When preparing a campfire, a site should be selected that is away from overhanging branches, grass, trees and tents. An area of 10 feet around the campfire should be cleared of ground litter, twigs, leaves and organic material, down to bare soil. The site also should be downwind from the sleeping area to prevent catching a tent or sleeping bag on fire from a spark or ember. Rocks should be placed directly around the campfire pit.
- If weather conditions are especially dry and you don't really need a fire for cooking, don't build one. A small spark is all it takes to ignite dry grass and leaves. Be sure to pay close attention to forest conditions and warnings from the park service.
- Talk with children about safety around camp fires. Supervision is paramount in keeping children safe. Designate play areas and be sure all matches and lighters are secured out of reach. Set rules designating those that should light the fire, add wood or put out the fire.
- Never use gasoline to light a fire. It is extremely explosive. A fire should be lit using kindling or a lighter stick. Keep a pail of sand or water nearby in the event it is needed to control the fire or extinguish it. Wear tight-fitting cotton or wool clothing while working near the campfire. Always keep a careful eye on fires. Make sure children don't play near them.
- Before you go to sleep at night or if you leave the campsite for a while, be sure to extinguish the fire. Many forest fires are started each year from unattended campfires or those that were not completely extinguished. Douse the fire with water or sand, break up the coals, add more water or sand, stir it with a stick and cover the dead embers with dirt. Make sure the fire is completely out before bedding down or leaving the campsite.