#25 Light a Fire

This video is from NZ Mountain Safety Council.

In this video you will learn to light a fire. The video covers hazards to think about when lighting a fire, how to build a fire and how to extinguish the fire before leaving or going to bed.

An open campfire is often an enjoyable part of camping but if it is not constructed, used and extinguished correctly it can also easily cause a bushfire.

When you are hiking or camping it’s important to carry a portable AM/FM radio with you and listen for information and remain alert for any signs of smoke or fire.

If a fire starts and it’s too late to leave, avoid seeking refuge near trees, scrub, long grass and leaves instead try to find shelter in a solid structure if possible to help block radiant heat.

Before you light a fire:

  • To reduce a fire risks always check the weather conditions in your camping area.
  • Do not light or maintain a campfire on dry, windy days.
  • Do no light or maintain a campfire when the Fire Danger Rating (FDR) is very high, severe, extreme or catastrophic.
  • Do not light a campfire during a Total Fire Ban (TFB). When a TFB is declared it is illegal to do anything that is likely to start a fire which includes cooking outside using an open fire. You could be fined up to $25,000 or jailed for 12 months or both if you ignore the TFB.

Tips for building your campfire safely:

  • Camp in a safe location that is clear of flammable vegetation such as long grass and spinifex.
  • Use a built fireplace where provided or dig a 30 centimetre deep trench to house the fire and prevent embers from flying out.
  • Create a border around the fire using large rocks.
  • Light the campfire in a cleared area. Remove branches, leaves and twigs from the ground and above the flames to create a clearing of three metres around the fire.
  • Ensure the fire is three metres away from tents and other camping equipment is stored well away, especially flammable items such as gas cylinders and fuel cans.
  • Never use flammable liquid or fuel such as petrol or diesel on a fire even when you are trying to get it started.
  • You should take the same safety precautions when using appliances with naked flames such as gas stoves and gas lanterns, as they can be blown over by wind and cause a fire.

This diagram shows that your fire should be three metres from anything that could catch fire.
Looking after your campfire:

  • Keep your fire just big enough for cooking and keeping warm.
  • Never leave your fire unattended, not even for a minute. Put your fire out properly with water not soil, even if going for a short walk or swim.
  • Extinguish your fire at night. Many children are burnt by campfires in the morning from hot ashes and embers.
  • Children and pets should be supervised at all times when near a fire.
  • Use only fallen dead wood. Branches or leaves from living trees damages the environment and can cause high levels of smoke.
  • Keep a bucket of water nearby.

Putting your campfire out:

  • Make sure your fire is completely extinguished using water.
  • Do not use soil. Fires can still smoulder under soil and can stay hot for more than eight hours. This is a danger to anyone walking in the area once you have gone.

Basic campfire safety:

  • Do not burn dangerous or flammable items, such as aerosol cans as they can explode.
  • Cans and other aluminium products do not burn.
  • Never put glass in your campfire as it will melt and shatter or explode hitting people nearby.
  • Never put unopened tins of food on a fire to cook as they may explode and cause injuries.
  • Call Triple Zero (000) to report a fire.

Information provided by dfes

Campfire accidents

  • If a camper’s clothes catch fire, stop them from running, push them to the ground and roll them over to extinguish the flames
  • If a camper is burnt by a campfire do not apply lotion, ointment or alcohol
  • Rinse the burn in running water for 20 minutes for example in a creek or river.
  • Treat the patient for shock and apply a non-stick dressing
  • Seek medical aid as soon as practicable if the wound is larger than a 20 cent coin.

Total Fire Ban:

  • They are announced either in the afternoon, the day before, or on the actual day and usually start at midnight and last for 24 hours.
  • They affect everyone, including farmers, campers, construction workers and residents (urban and rural).

How do I check if there’s a Total Fire Ban in place?

Using a BBQ during Total Fire Bans

On a Total Fire Ban day you are not allowed to light an open-air fire or conduct any activity that could start a fire. This includes lighting a campfire or firing up a wood or charcoal BBQ, using a wood-fired pizza oven.

Q: Can I have a BBQ in my local park during a Total Fire Ban?
A: Yes. However, only under strict conditions. There must be a dedicated area set aside by the authority responsible for the park. You can only use an electric or gas appliance that has an enclosed flame.
All flammable material must be cleared five metres around the appliance. Short green grass less than five centimetres in height, paving stones, bricks and reticulated gardens are not considered to be flammable. You cannot burn solid fuels such as wood or charcoal in the open air (e.g. you cannot use a wood/charcoal fuelled Weber type bbq in the open air).

Q: Can I use a barbecue, pizza oven or spit style rotisserie which burns solid fuel during a Total Fire Ban?
A: No. You cannot use any barbecue or cooker that requires solid fuel such as wood or charcoal in the open air. This includes wood fired ovens or stoves, and kettle (Weber) barbecues. Undercover areas such as patios, pergolas and huts which are open or partially open to the weather are deemed to be in the open air.