News & Updates

Fire Season Blues – And Ways to Navigate Them

Guest - July 27, 2017

Boulder, CO: A well-loved outdoor tradition, campfires are all the rage when heading outside overnight. The trouble is, campfires have a tendency to rage into wildfires when it's dry out. Fire season is well underway – and with fire season comes fire bans and other limitations on how we can get our warmth on. Here are some Leave No Trace tips on how best to navigate this tricky time without giving up your fire.


Before You Hit the Road

If having a fire is important to you, make sure you select a destination that lets you enjoy that caveman TV without violating any fire bans in place. Research the rules and regulations for your specific location, and make sure the local county doesn't have any overarching rules. In certain areas, fires are only allowed in campgrounds with designated fire rings, so make sure to secure a spot in those places before you go to avoid any disappointment on arrival.

fire2.jpgBackcountry: Build Smart

If you're headed for the backcountry and it's alright to build a fire, consider building a dirt mound to put your fire on, shown here, or taking a fire pan, to cut down on placement considerations. Remember, pine duff and other ground cover is flammable, so make sure you place your fire pan on rocks to insulate the ground from the heat. When collecting firewood in the backcountry, make sure you're grabbing wood that's dead, on the ground, smaller than your wrist, and at least 200 feet – or 70 big steps – distant from your campsite. Keep backcountry fires small to make sure they don't get out of your control.  Be sure they're dead out before you go to bed or leave your campsite by using enough water to make the cold ash a soupy consistency. 

Frontcountry: Build Clean

One of the biggest concerns for campground fires is the spread of invasive species. Tree-killing insects like the emerald ash borer are often spread through the transportation of firewood from one location to another by unwitting campers. While it might seem like a chore or an undue burden, buying firewood where you intend to burn it helps keep our forests healthy, and lets land management agencies spend their time and their funding on trail maintenance and other necessary upkeep. Avoid burning trash, as things like plastics and dyes can release chemicals into the air that aren’t healthy to breathe in. Trash in fire rings is also an attractant for animals, who could nibble on your gear or on you in their quest to get food.




Having a campfire can be a ton of fun, but it's also a ton of responsibility – no one wants to be the one to cause a wildfire. Use your best judgment – in adverse conditions, like excessive wind or excessive duff on the ground, having a fire may not be the best idea. Still, with a little research, planning, flexibility, and a little weather luck, you can still have a fire to keep you company on your outdoor adventures.

We hope you enjoy your campfires, and Enjoy Your World!

–Amanda and Junaid, Team East Central

Leave No Trace's Amanda Jameson and Junaid Dawud are part of the 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Klean Kanteen, and Smartwool.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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