Summertime means cookouts, swimming and warm nights with bonfires.
If you find yourself at an evening soiree gathered around a bonfire, be sure to take some extra steps to ensure everyone’s safety.
When it comes to enjoying recreational fires, the terms bonfire and campfire often get used interchangeably. They’re, however, different.
The main difference is size and purpose. A campfire is typically smaller and intended to be used for heating, cooking, or repelling pesky insects. Campfires are usually small enough for a handful of people to sit around.
A bonfire is bigger and usually intended for a celebration, party or gathering of several people. It’s still a controlled fire, but the large scale of the fire means it can be a hazard.
Below are some tips for enjoying a safe summertime bonfire.
- First, check your local city ordinances about the legality of controlled fires. Whether or not a bonfire is legal depends on the municipality. You may even need a permit.
- Make sure the weather is appropriate for a bonfire. The wind severity is a factor you’ll want to know. There is also a fire warning put out by the National Weather Service. This indicates the environmental conditions that could cause a fire to spread rapidly.
If you determine a bonfire is appropriate based on these two factors, make sure the area is safe for a quarantined fire. Some suggestions from the Farm Bureau, an insurance provider, say to place rocks around the outside area of the fire, dig a central hole six inches by two feet wide and pile the dirt around the pit. Then clear a circle 10 feet wide, making sure no grasses and weeds could blow into the lit bonfire area.
- Have a large bucket of water or a watering hose readily available.
- Make sure small children are not in attendance.
- Enjoy alcohol very responsibly and don’t over-indulge around a bonfire.
- Burn materials such as dry wood, tinder (sticks, pine needles, newspaper) and logs. Some municipalities allow you to use lighter fluid but do so carefully. Place your fire materials in a tee-pee shape and light. When finished with the fire, turn over logs to see if there are sections still burning. Then douse the area in water.
For more information on safe summer activities for you and your family, speak with your health care provider.