Campfires & BBQs...
Ask the average Joe or Josephine about “campfires” and they’ll regale you with tales of songs and toasted marshmallows around childhood fires at scout camp, guide camp or camping with Granddad in the back-garden.
Ask about “house-fires” and see how quickly sirens, blue-lights, fire fighters, burning buildings and paramedics come to mind.
Fire safety is probably the last thing on most people’s minds when they head off for a few nights under canvass. In reality it ought to be their first priority.
Fires in open countryside, especially in summertime, are a significant risk. Every year, Fire and Rescue Services in the UK tackle around 80,000 blazes on grassland and heaths. Mostly these result in damage to the environment, wildlife and farmers’ crops, although thankfully few human casualties, but only because there were none in the way!
Stick in a field or two of tents and the story could be very different.
Modern tents burn with an intense heat in as little as 60 seconds. That before considering whatever other flammable items may be kept inside. Worth asking the question then, how long would it take you or yours to get out of your sleeping bags at night should the tent catch fire? Worth remembering too that candles and cigarettes in tents are never a cool idea.
Which is why any responsible camping park will take fire safety as a very serious issue!
The closest any fire should ever be to a tent is 6 metres - and then downwind of it. In practice, where lots of tents are in the same field and allowing for changing wind conditions, this is impossible and why most licensed campsites don’t allow fires. One fire for an organised scout camp is one thing, but tens or hundreds is a different order of risk altogether. There are also issues of annoying smoke drift and the fact that no one wants to camp on the charred ash and remains of someone else’s fire.
Fire pits can be cleaner, but even these can shed hot ash and charcoal onto the grass below.
There’s also the question of what goes on to fires, fire pits (and for that matter BBQs). Wood has a tendency to “spit” and sadly those lovely dancing red embers wafting skywards into the night air have to come down somewhere and will still be hot. They can travel many metres and still be hot enough to leave small holes in your’s or someone else’s tent or even start a fire. The same is true of paper and cardboard dropped onto fires or lit BBQs.
Hopefully it goes without saying that squirting flammable liquids of any sort on to a hot BBQ is a recipe for disaster!...And yet people still do it - usually blokes showing off to their kids or their mates.
May be its a question of big flame, small.....well who knows, but it’s a really dangerous and potentially life-changing thing to do. So don’t!
For the cost conscious camper off-cuts from the building trade can be a tempting fuel for fires, fire pits and BBQs, but could prove deadly! These days many cast-offs from the building trade have been chemically treated and give off toxic gases when they burn and leave toxic ash on the ground when their done! The first could be nasty for you and your neighbours. The second will leave a permanent, poisonous reminder of your visit in the soil.
Tragically, noxious gases are another hazard people tend to neglect when off camping and it’s not just the poisonous fumes from treated wood. Any combustible material , including gas, charcoal or wood, can give off deadly carbon monoxide. This colourless, odourless gas kills around 40 people a year, including campers.
Never cook in your tent and never be tempted to use a BBQ or gas heater to warm it. You risk turning your tent into a carbon monoxide bubble.
Even leaving an un-extinguished BBQ close to a tent or in a porch or awning, could be enough for your’s or someone else’s camping trip to end in tragedy.
In fact, it makes good sense to make sure that any naked flame or BBQ is completely out and cold to the touch before you go to sleep. This will stop you getting gassed, but it also reduces the risks of the wind getting up at night and blowing hot embers onto your tent. It also means that anyone getting up in the dark doesn’t risk tripping and falling onto scalding hot coals or hot BBQs.
Did you know that being drunk increases your risk of getting accidental burns and the likelihood of more serious complications if you do? So make sure someone in the tent is sober enough to be in control of themselves and the barbie!
The dangers of stumbling around in the dark are one of many good reason to have torches or glow-sticks close to hand at all times when camping. These may not be as eco-friendly and romantic as tallow or beeswax candles and incense sticks, but on the other hand they won’t set your tent on fire either!
Wow! All this sounds scary, but it isn’t and it needn’t be. The vast majority of campers do so perfectly safely every year. But tragic accidental injuries and deaths do happen. Following simple “Do’s” and “Don’ts” could help prevent a tragedy happening to you (see right). It’s a surefire way of making your camping trip one to remember for the right reasons and not one you can never forget.
Choosing the right site is the first step. Look for licensed parks which are properly regulated and take fire safety seriously. For example, there’s no point in you doing all you can to keep safe if others on the site are launching Chinese lanterns all over the place.
Manufacturers may think they’re safe but most responsible campsite owners, farmers, firefighters and several Governments throughout the world take a different view. Even Glastonbury Festival organiser Michael Eavis has put his name to calls for lanterns to be banned.
Hopefully it’s fairly clear why Dorset Camper shares that view! You have no control over where they’ll go, where they’ll land or whether they’ll still be lit when they do. And a floating firebomb is the last thing you want to see drifting towards your tent, crops, thatched roof or hay-barn. On the coast, they also have a striking resemblance in the night sky to a distant flare...so the Coastguards aren’t fans either!
Most recently the Marine Conservation Society (MSC) has joined the throng of people and organisations looking to ban sky litter from balloons and lanterns. They even produced a booklet to explain why called “Don’t let go!”. So why not print off a copy and take it to your nearest sea littering, sky lantern vendor and ask them to stop selling them!
If that doesn’t persuade them to stop, ask them how they fancy getting the clean up bill for a fire like this one!
Modern tents burn with an intense heat in as little as 60 seconds. That before considering whatever other flammable items may be kept inside....."
CAMPING FIRE SAFETY “DO’S”
CAMPING FIRE SAFETY “DON’TS”