Build a better camp fire

Grab some hot dogs, marshmallows, those chocolaty Hershey bars and some graham crackers.

Let’s see, something’s missing.

Oh, yeah. The fire.

“Building a fire is a great skill to have,” said Aaron Kennon, 15, senior patrol leader of Boy Scout Troop 200 in Reno. “Everyone should have the knowledge to build a fire.”

To build a successful fire, the Boy Scouts start with small logs (less than 1 inch in diameter and some can be a little larger), wads of newspaper, kindling, dryer lint, dry grasses (rolled to look like a bird’s nest) and wood chips. A cotton ball saturated in flint and steel, petroleum jelly or, of course, matches can help ignite the fire. The other three crucial ingredients are fuel, oxygen and heat.

It’s also a good idea to strip off a small section of topsoil or sod, and dig a shallow pit.

Several types of fires can be built, including ti-pi (or teepee), lean-to, trench and a hunter’s fire.

A trench fire is built in a shallow ditch as long as necessary and allows for a support over the top to act as a cooking surface. In a hunter’s fire, add another log to a lean-to and surface is available for cooking or heating water.

A philosophy of the Boy Scouts is to leave no trace of them being wherever they might have camped.

Once a fire is no longer needed or dies down, they make sure the leftover logs are cool enough to be touched. If not, a little water can speed up the process. The remaining ashes or coals can be mixed into the pit and covered with the sod, the Scouts said.

“When we put our fires out, we make sure it’s absolutely cooled to the touch,” Kennon said. “You want to be able to touch it.”

He said it’s also a good idea to check with the camping area or the town where you live to find out its fire regulations.

“We provide fire rings and grills at our state parks,” said Jean Backs, a spokeswoman with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. “There are fire rings at the campsites and grills at picnic areas. We want people to keep their fires contained to those areas so that we’re not running into fire danger to protect our forest resources.”

However, if you aren’t a Boy Scout or your idea of roughing it is a hotel without a pool, you can have a camp fire at your home.

Retailers and construction firms have many options for the home when adding a fire feature or fireplace.

Best Landscaping on Ohio 7 in Reno sells some portable fire pits or larger in-ground models to accommodate up to 200 people.

Owner Mike Best said his company has done at least 20 fire pit installation since the beginning of 2013 and stone and customized pits have been popular, serving as great areas for conversation.


Pick a spot

Do not build a fire at a site in hazardous, dry conditions. Do not build a fire if the campground, area or event rules prohibit campfires.

Does the campground have an existing fire ring or fire pit?

If there is no existing fire pit, and pits are allowed, look for a site that is at least 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Also beware of low-hanging branches overhead.

Dig A Pit

Choose a spot that’s downwind protected from wind gusts, and at least 15 feet from your tent and gear.

Clear a 10-foot diameter area around the site. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves and firewood. Ensure no tree limbs or flammable objects are hanging overhead.

Dig a pit in the dirt, about a foot deep.

Circle the pit with rocks.

Preparing Your Campfire Pit

Fill the pit with small pieces of dry wood; never rip or cut branches from living trees.

Place your unused firewood upwind and away from the fire.

Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.

How to Build a Campfire

Gather three types of wood: Tinder (small twigs, dry leaves or grass, dry needles); Kindling (sticks smaller than 1 inch around); Fuel (larger pieces of wood).

Loosely pile a few handfuls of tinder in the center of the fire ring/pit.

Add kindling in one of these methods:

Tipi (good for cooking) – Lay the kindling over the tinder as if you’re building a tent.

Cross (perfect for a long-lasting campfire)-Crisscross the kindling over the tinder.

Lean-to (good for cooking)-Drive a long piece of kindling into the ground at an angle over the tinder. Lean smaller pieces of kindling against the longer piece.

Log Cabin (longest lasting campfire)- Surround your pile of tinder with kindling, stacking pieces at right angles. Top the “cabin” with the smallest kindling.

Ignite the tinder with a match or lighter.

Wait until the match is cold, and discard it in the fire.

Add more tinder as the fire grows.

Blow lightly at the base of the fire.

Add kindling and firewood to keep the fire going.

Keep the fire small and under control.

Maintaining Your Campfire

Once you have a strong fire going, add larger pieces of dry wood to keep it burning steadily.

Keep your fire to a manageable size.

Make sure children and pets are supervised when near the fire.

Never leave your campfire unattended.

Never cut live trees or branches from live trees.

Extinguishing Your Campfire

Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.

Pour lots of water on the fire, drown all embers, not just the red ones.

Pour until hissing sound stops.

Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.

Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.

Stir and make sure everything is wet and they are cold to the touch.

If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool.

Remember: don’t bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.

Don’t burn dangerous things. Never burn aerosol cans or pressurized containers. They may explode.

Never put glass in the fire pit. Glass does not melt away, it only heats up and shatters. Broken slivers of glass are dangerous.

Aluminum cans do not burn. In fact, the aluminum only breaks down into smaller pieces. Inhaling aluminum dust can be harmful to your lungs.