You and/or your kids may be home from summer camp, but you can still enjoy a favorite camp activity.How about firing up the fun with a campfire? There’s nothing like sitting with family and friends, letting the dancing fire entertain you, and roasting one more s’more.
With that in mind, here are 7 tips for building a campfire the West Ohio Camps way:
1. Use dry firewood
Freshly cut wood contains up to 50 percent moisture. If steam bubbles and hisses on the fire, it’s wet or green—plus, it will make more campfire smoke, which burns the eyes.
2. Prepare a good supply of “fuel”
Collect your fuel:
- Tinder (dry leaves & grass, wood shavings, balls of paper)
- Kindling (dry, dead twigs)
- Chopped firewood (thicker than 3 inches in diameter)
You’ll be starting your fire with the tinder and kindling—which provides surface area without a lot of weight to get a fire going; logs are too much weight in the beginning.
3. Clear a site at least 10 feet across.
Debris should be removed so that you are starting the fire on bare soil. The cleared circle should be about 10 feet across. Never locate your site near overhanging branches or standing deadwood—or, too close to your tent. A fire ring can be built with stones and rocks to contain the fire. Keep a bucket of water close to the fire for emergency use.
4. Create a base.
There are two basic types: the tepee and the log cabin.
Teepee: Make a loose pile of tinder in the center (a couple of handfuls) and place the kindling vertically around the tinder in the shape of a tepee. After lighting the fire, feed it with more branches and then firewood as the fire grows.
Log cabin: Place four large logs (about 8 to 10 inches in diameter) in a 2- to 3-foot square—well bedded down. Stack logs to form a short horizontal stack. Fill the center with tinder and kindling. There are variants of the log cabin, such as the lean-to, which is easier for novices/kids and will burn wood more slowly.
5. Light your fire.
Use matches or a lighter and light tinder from all sides. You can blow on the fire to get it going with oxygen, but blow gently! Never use charcoal lighter fluid or white gas (such as Coleman lantern/camp stove gas) as a campfire accelerant.
6. Keep the fire going.
Eventually, the base logs will burn through. As this happens, move them into the center and replace with new logs. Pace your burning to make sure that your log supply lasts as long as you wish to have a campfire. We’ve all prematurely burned out of wood at one time or another in our enthusiasm to have a big, robust fire.
If you want less fire, dampen it with a shovelful of dirt, sand, or ash. If you desire more blaze, add kindling to the top. Don’t put a giant log on the fire at the end of the night; make sure that you time the fire’s natural end with quitting time.
7. Put out the fire safely.
At the end of the night, use your poker stick to break apart the remnants of your tepee or log cabin. Slowly pour in gallons of water and stir it around so that no more sparks can be seen. Be careful not to put your hands in the ashes for the next couple of days; ashes can remain extremely hot even under the water and cool ash mud. Hot ash from underneath is helpful if you want to have a fire the following night.