How to Stay Fire Smart While Camping in Summer
Enjoy camping without fire risks this summer. Explore vehicle prep, road safety and campfire care for a worry-free journey.
It’s been a hotter than average spring in Australia with bushfires already burning in some states.
With a forecast long, hot summer there is no better time to be vigilant about fire safety as you head off to your favourite holiday destinations in the great outdoors on your next camping trip.
Much of Australia's native flora is designed to ignite, and in many cases, it needs to do so as part of its regenerative process. At home we're aware of the dangers of fire, but in the wilderness it's necessary to be especially careful. And as always, a little planning will go a long way to being safe in the summer months.
As the weather warms up and the landscape dries out, our fire services will be active doing everything they can to reduce the risk of a catastrophic event. Back burning and clearing land of flammable debris are important protective measures; however, it's up to every individual to play their part. When you're on the move keep an eye on the conditions and fire safety ratings, which tend to be displayed on large signs along highways throughout the country.
Your vehicle should be in tip-top condition so as not to be a fire hazard. Keep your undercarriage clear of leaves, small twigs, branches, grass and other fire hazards and be sure that appliances are in good order. Check electrical connections and gas lines, as well as anything else that might spark. Keep your vehicle stocked with fire safety equipment such as a fire blanket and fire extinguisher.
Check ahead to see what conditions are likely to prevail at your destination and find out the rules pertaining to those. Throughout parts of Australia there are different restrictions on Total Fire Ban days; in some places you'll be prohibited from using a generator, while in others there's a blanket ban on recreational four-wheel driving.
Aside from the risks of sparking a blaze, breaking the laws around fire bans can result in some hefty penalties, including five-figure fines or prison time.
On the road
One universal wisdom echoed around bush fires is to always act early. Whether that means leaving a place that’s under threat or reducing danger by choosing to go flame-free to begin with, the best way to deal with a dangerous situation is to never encounter it in the first place.
Common sense should lead us all to avoid areas close to active blazes, not only for our own safety but also to keep roads clear for emergency services.
If you do, however, find yourself in such an area, be sure to keep your windows up, switch on your headlights and drive with extreme caution. Don’t linger any longer than need be, but also be sure to obey road rules, temporary road closures and so forth.
It’s hard to beat the experience of gathering around a campfire and, if the conditions permit, it can be a great addition to any camp kitchen.
Regardless of the weather, campfires should always be lit with the utmost care but in the drier months, particularly during fire season, you should avoid lighting any solid fuel fires.
Keep these tips in mind for a safe campfire throughout the year:
- In campgrounds or caravan parks where fires are allowed, campers may light campfires in campground fireplaces if it is not a day of Total Fire Ban
- Don’t light fires on hot and windy days
- Some national parks do not permit fires at all so it’s always best to check with the local park’s office
- Use prepared fireplaces where they’re available, or as directed by signs
- Clear 3m radius around the pit by removing any twigs, leaves and flammable debris, and make sure there are no low-hanging branches overhead
- Dig a pit around 30cm deep to contain the fire
- Use large rocks to create a border around the fire; avoid river rocks and layered rocks as they can explode when they get hot
- Keep a shovel and a bucket of water nearby (not sand or dirt as they stay hot for an extended period)
- Ensure that the fire is never left unattended and is completely extinguished (cool to touch) before you leave the campsite. Extinguish the fire by pouring water onto it
- When it comes to firewood, your best bet is BYO. You can’t rely on there being sufficient supplies in the area around your camp. Some public lands will have seasonal restrictions on the collection of wood, while national parks and reserves have a ban to preserve habitat.
On Total Fire Ban days:
- No campfires or open flame barbecues are permitted, including kettle/Weber style barbecues and solid fuel camp ovens (this includes use of burners in your tent)
- No liquid fuel or gas appliances are permitted
- Built-in electric or gas barbecues can only be used if a water supply is within 10m, the barbecue is clear of all flammable material for 3m around it, and an adult is present
For more information contact the relevant fire authority in your state.
At Hema Maps, we strive to provide the most comprehensive and accurate maps and guides for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore Australia's natural wonders.
Did you find this information useful? If so, please share it with your fellow explorers. Whether it's by SMS, social media, or email, your friends and fellow adventurers will appreciate the valuable tips and insights we've shared.
Let's work together to make the most of every adventure.