How to Properly and Safely Put Out a Campfire

Table of Contents

Once your camping trip is winding down and you and your friends have made all the ‘smores you can eat and sang your hearts out around the fire. The time has come to finally put out the campfire. But as responsible campers, you need to know how to properly and safely put out a campfire. This helps prevent forest fires and injuries caused by incorrectly putting out a fire.

When Should I Put Out a Campfire?

A campfire should be put out completely whenever there is not someone available to keep an eye on it. Let’s say a few people have left the campsite to go fishing but there are still a couple of campers that stay behind. But those campers that stayed behind, decide to take a nap. The fire isn’t burning with huge flames but there are still hot coals. Before those campers go into their tent to take a nap the fire needs to be completely extinguished. Try to plan ahead and you won’t have to extinguish a fire more than one or twice a day.

Materials Needed to Put Out a Campfire

You’ll need a few things to properly put out a campfire; water, a bucket and a shovel. I bring a folding shovel and store it in the bucket that way I save space and keep everything together. Be sure to check with your campsite before heading out to see if they have any water access. If they don’t, then you’ll need to bring extra water to make sure you can put your fires out every night. Also for whenever you’ll be leaving your campsite to hike or fish, etc. In case of emergency, and there is no water available or a shovel, you can use dirt and a large stick to put the fire out. It takes a bit longer and it isn’t quite as efficient, but it works in a pinch.

How to Put Out a Campfire

Step One:

Wait until the fire has died down and has no flames left. Then spread any hot coals or embers to help them extinguish faster.


Step Two:

With your bucket of water and shovel ready, figure out which direction the wind is blowing. Stand up wind from the fire and proceed to pour out some water. Keep the bucket a few feet above the fire to prevent burns from the steam. Pause for a moment and wait for the smoke to blow away.


Step Three:

Continue to pour more water to the embers. This time, while you’re waiting for the smoke to clear, take the shovel and mix around the water and ashes. You want the ashes and water to be a slushy consistency.

Step Four:

Continue this process until there are absolutely no embers or smoke coming from the ashes. Once you are positive the fire is completely out, be sure to check the heat of the fire pit carefully.

Do I Need a Permit for a Campfire?

Depending on where you are camping, you could also need a fire permit to actually have a fire at your campsite. Be sure to always look into local laws and regulations of the location you are camping. Campfire permits are usually free and can be obtained at the local ranger’s station. These permits being issued notifies the rangers who will be having a campfire in the area in case anything happens, like a wildfire. They also ensure that, when the fire danger is too severe, permits will not be handed out. Sometimes, fires in fire rings could be banned but you can still use propane grills. Each campsite has their own rules. You should also always be sure to only burn wood that is from the area you are camping. If the wood is from another environment, you could be introducing new diseases and pests that could devastate the surrounding natural habitat.

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