Green Tips: Eco-Friendly Campfires

Green Tips | August 20, 2020

Campfires are an integral part of camping. You can make s’mores, listen to the crackling of the fire, and tell ghost stories all while keeping warm. While campfires add to the camping experience, it’s important to reduce environmental harm and stay safe. Check out this week’s Green Tips on eco-friendly campfires!

Fire Safety

Although wildfires can occur naturally from lightning, most wildfires are caused by human activity. On average, fire departments respond to an average of 4,500 wildfires around New York State per year. Here are some tips to make sure your campfire stays a campfire:

  • Never make a campfire on a windy day.
  • Check NYS DEC’s Fire Danger Map before making a campfire.
  • Use a pre-existing campfire ring when possible.
  • Clear dry branches, leaves, and other flammable materials from a 10-15 foot area around the fire pit. Make sure there are no low-hanging branches near the fire pit.
  • Control the amount of wood that you place on the fire so it does not get too large. Add small quantities of flammable material at a time.
  • Never leave the fire unattended.
  • Have a bucket of water or hose nearby. Extinguish the fire with water when you’re done and make sure that all embers, sticks, and coals are wet and cool before leaving the area.

Campfire Materials and Environmental Impacts

The material that you use in your campfire can have an impact on the environment. Here are a few things to be aware of:

  • Do not remove branches or twigs from trees. Instead, use natural deadwood on the ground. 
  • Before buying firewood, check the park rules for bringing in outside firewood. Use firewood that’s locally sourced to decrease the risk of transferring invasive species and reduce the travel distance of your firewood (which will reduce its carbon footprint). You can also use dead wood near your campfire that’s no larger than an adult’s wrist.
  • Avoid burning materials with colored ink, paint, or any wrappers. Do not burn wood that has been pressure-treated, is wet, rotten, or moldy. Avoid burning driftwood, plywood, or any wood with glue on it. 
  • If using manufactured logs, use those made from 100% compressed sawdust
  • Look for sustainably sourced firewood. Ask your firewood supplier where the wood comes from.
  • Use kindling and a match to start the fire. If using an accelerant, only use lighter fluid
  • Never burn your trash or any plastics, as this can release toxic gases like dioxins, mercury, and BCPs. 

Cleaning Up

It’s important to leave no trace after your campfire. Fire pits can be an eyesore, so follow these tips for proper clean-up: 

  • Collect all waste for disposal on your way out.
  • Scatter any unused wood to keep the area looking natural. 
  • Spread the ash from your fire away from the campsite over a large area. 

We hope you remain safe and have a great time around your next campfire! 

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