Before you leave your campsite, putting out a campfire is critical. An ember left alive has the potential to become a fire that can burn hundreds to thousands of acres of wildland – and destroy any homes or structures in its path. It has happened many times – don’t be the one who leaves a campfire with life still in it.
- Remember the fire triangle: fuel, heat, and oxygen. Remove any single one of these, and a fire can no longer burn.
- Plan ahead whenever possible. If you know when you will be breaking camp, stop adding more wood to your campfire so that the wood that is already burning in the fire will have time to burn down to ashes before you have to leave. This makes the putting out much less problematic.
- Separate any remaining coals from each other. This will help to start removing heat.
- Sprinkle water on the remaining coals. Stir in the water. If you have plenty of water handy, completely drown the coals and ashes until there is no steam and the ashes and coals are cool.
- If you don’t have much water, use sand – or other non-organic soil – to cover the ashes and coals. This helps remove heat and oxygen. Stir the soil into the ashes.
- If you have no water or appropriate soil to use, a fire can be extinguished by separating any remaining coals and chopping them into small pieces that can cool.
- Check the soil under and around the campfire. Make sure it is not supporting any burning organic material. Also, check for roots that can act as fuses and carry the fire to other locations. Make sure these roots are not burning or smoldering.
- Make sure any unburned firewood is stacked well away from the campfire.
- Scan the area around your campfire for sparks or burning embers.
- Don’t leave your campfire until you are sure it is dead out.