Campfire Safety

When the snow is finally gone people turn their thoughts to the traditional spring and summer activities of camping and fishing across Ontario. Along with these activities come the traditional campfire and shore lunch fires.

Campfires and shore lunch fires are a part of the Ontario wilderness experience, but any outdoor fire carries the risk of becoming a wildfire unless properly managed. Don’t let your fire become a wildfire!

In the spring all the dead and dry vegetation left over from the winter is highly flammable and easily ignited by sparks blowing off of an unattended campfire.

In the summer, campfires left smoldering are a source of many wildfires. If a campfire is built on “organic” material it can burn deep into the ground. Sub-surface layers of the ground can easily dry out after a couple weeks of dry weather. Typically, when attempts are made to put out a fire, the burning surface material is extinguished, but the fire continues to smolder below the surface. After several hours, or even days later, that fire can surface and become a wildfire.

Safe campfires are:

  • Built on bare soil or exposed bedrock (remove leaves, grass and twigs)
  • Sheltered from the wind
  • At least 3 meters from flammable material
  • At least 15 meters from buildings

On average a single small fire costs the people of Ontario approximately four thousand dollars to extinguish. If it happens to be your fire escaping and starting a wildfire, you can be held responsible to pay for the suppression costs or damages caused by the wildfire.

Campfire and shore lunch safety begins with you. Douse your fire with water and ensure there are no burning embers and the fire pit is cold before leaving.

Remember to Be FireSmart. Find out more about wildfire safety at:

If you have to burn grass or debris near your operation:

  • Burn only when it’s not windy
  • Burn only during the coolest and dampest part of the day.
  • Under the Forest Fires Prevention Act of Ontario those hours are set out as - ignited no sooner than two hours before sunset, and put out no later than two hours after sunrise
  • Use an incinerator or burn on rocky ground
  • Keep your fire small
  • Have a rake, shovel and water at hand to put the fire out
  • Never leave the fire unattended and make sure it is dead out before leaving 

This article was taken from page 7 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Spring 2009 Issue


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