Tips & Tricks: The safe campfire

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Gathering and festive, the campfire is undoubtedly an essential part of camping evenings. But it can also, if not done properly, have very serious consequences. This year, we witnessed the devastating effects of a poorly extinguished fire when 71,000 hectares of forest disappeared under the flames in the Lac Saint-Jean region, which is equivalent to one and a half times the size of the island of Montreal.

It is therefore important to remember some basic considerations when deciding to light a fire, and especially to know how to extinguish it properly!

Site selection

  • Respect the regulations of the place where you are.
  • Use the designated sites.
  • Choose a site location that is close to a water source and out of the wind.
  • Choose a rocky, bare soil on which there is no other combustible material (mineral soil).
  • Build your fire at least one meter away from any flammable material.
  • Look above the fire site and make sure there are no branches or vegetation within three meters of the fire site.

Site preparation

  • Remove all pine needles, grass, leaves and twigs near the fire ring.
  • Clean up the site until you get right down to the mineral soil.
  • Make sure you have enough water nearby to control the fire.
  • If the fire ring is more than a meter wide, become a DIY beaver and reduce the size.

Fire construction when regulations and fire rating allow it

  • Keep the fire small.
  • Choose the right time to light it. If no one is around to enjoy it, is the fire really necessary?
  • Burn the entire resource, so avoid burning pieces larger than your wrist.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.

Extinguishing the fire


  • Pour plenty of water on the campfire.
  • Stir the ashes with a stick.
  • Pour more water on the campfire.
  • Stir the ashes again, using a stick.
  • Repeat these steps until :
  • The ashes are cold to the touch
  • The ashes no longer crackle
  • The ashes look soaked
  • Ashes no longer give off smoke

Sand is not a substitute for water when it comes to putting out a fire.

  • Respect the regulations and the indications of the SOPFEU.
  • Do not proceed with the multiplication of secondary fire rings.
  • If you notice fire sites that don't belong, renaturalize the area to remove the evidence of inappropriate fire rings.
  • If you feel that the fire ring is too big or not properly arranged, take action!
  • Bring back any form of waste that is in the fire ring.
  • Don't leave anything in the fire ring thinking it will help the next person to light it, it won't!
  • If you were not able to burn the entire wood, remove the pieces from the site (when extinguished) and arrange them so that the next person can use them.
  • Leave the wood you have harvested on site, sheltered from the weather (but visible) so that the next person can start his fire quickly.
  • If wood is not provided, go far away from the campsite to collect the resource. The laziness of gathering firewood as close to the fire ring as possible leaves campsites completely devoid of their natural beauty.
  • Do not strip the birch bark directly from the live tree. There is enough resource on the ground to start your fire. It's not magic to start a fire without bark, it's practice!

The campfire, with its unifying effect, its glow and its warmth, is part of the outdoor tradition. The healthy management of it becomes inevitable if we wish to preserve the privileges it offers us!

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