News & Updates

Burning Trash

Guest - December 21, 2010

Thanks to all of you who posted comments on our recent Facebook question: Is it ever OK to burn trash in your campfire? Why or why not?

How many of us have seen a trashed fire ring? Trash begets trash. It's just a fact. Ideally, all trash should be packed out, every time, everywhere. Burning trash is generally not acceptable under any circumstances. Even paper products, while combustible, don't always burn completely and can lead to flying embers. Another item that shouldn't be burned is food. It generally takes a hot fire to fully combust foods, and leftover food scraps are a strong attractant to wildlife.

Another issue is the toxins released from burning different items. The Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC), a USDA Forest Service research facility, released a study in 2004 on campfire toxins which can be viewed here:

For more research on campfire impacts, visit:

For your next campfire, keep the following in mind:

• Ask about pertinent regulations and campfire management techniques.
• Judge the wind, weather, location, and wood availability. Decide whether it’s safe and responsible to build a campfire.
• Where there are no fire rings or grates, bring a fire pan or set aside time to build a mound fire.
• Have a trowel or small shovel and a container for saturating the ashes with water.
• Never leave a fire unattended.
• Don’t try to burn foil-lined packets, leftover food, or other garbage that would have to be removed later.
• Burn the wood completely to ash: Stop feeding the fire, and give yourself an hour or more to add all the unburned stick ends.
• Saturate the ash with water. Make sure it’s cool to the touch, and remove any trash.
• Scatter all the ashes widely with a small shovel or pot lid.
• Restore the appearance of the fire site.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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