Whether they are in your backyard or at a campsite, nothing is quite like sitting around an outdoor fire. After all, who doesn’t love a freshly cooked smore with a perfectly toasted marshmallow?
Unfortunately, every summer we admit trauma patients with serious or life-threatening burns from these outdoor fires. We would rather you create happy memories outdoors this summer and not spend time with us in the hospital. So, here are some tips and steps to keep you and your family campfire safe!
Campfire Safety Tips
- When preparing for your outdoor fire, examine the area around the fire ring, pit, or bowl for tripping hazards. It is best to move toys, kindling, and chairs at least three feet away from the fire and to make sure everyone understands the area around the fire is a strict No Run Zone, especially children.
- It is safest to only add wood to the fire. Do not use accelerants such as gasoline, aerosol spray, or lighter fluid to start or keep the fire burning. In fact, store accelerants and other flammable materials far upwind from the fire to reduce the risk of ignition by sparks.
- When the fire is over, remember that the danger of burns is still present. Coals, ashes, and embers can stay hot enough to cause burns for up to 24 hours. When you finish with the fire for the day, fully extinguish it by pouring water over the remaining coals. The American Burn Association recommends that to completely extinguish a camp fire, you pour water over the coals, stir the coals, and then pour water again until it is cool. Never bury the fire! Individuals can be seriously burned when they come in contact with day old coals or accidentally walk over a recently buried fire pit.
- If you are at a campsite, assume ashes and coals are dangerously hot and teach children not to play with campfire remains.
- Alcohol impairs your balance and your ability to react. When around a campfire, limit your risk of tripping into the fire or becoming severely burned by being mindful of what and how much you are drinking.
- Most importantly? Make sure you are always in control! Keep fires at a manageable size and a size appropriate for the location. Designate a person whose job it is to watch the fire and enforce the No Run Zone. Have a bucket close at hand in case the fire or ashes need to be extinguished.
Abby Beerman is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and Children’s Hospital.