Updated 06 November 2013

Don't be a fire-starter

Most wildfires are started by careless people. Don’t be one. Take proper care with camping and braai fires.

When hiking or camping, especially in fire season:

  • Use a camping stove for cooking instead of a fire, particularly if there’s a strong wind blowing. Make sure you know exactly how to use the stove before you leave home.
  • Only make a campfire in a designated fireplace. Avoid overhanging branches, thick bushes and steep slopes. There should be a zone 5m wide around the fire that is clear of vegetation and flammable debris. You can also enclose your fire with a ring of large stones to help contain it.
  • Keep extra firewood, matches and any other fuel source (like gas canisters) separate.
  • Keep water close by to quickly douse the campfire if it shows signs of spreading.
  • At least one person should keep an eye on the fire at all times.
  • Make sure your campfire is completely out before you go to sleep or leave the campsite: douse the embers with water, then stir them up and douse them again. You should be able to touch the dead-out area with your bare hand. It’s also not a bad idea to cover your fire spot with soil or stones. However, don't cover it with soil until you're 100% sure the fire is completely out - fires can continue to smoulder even underground, and flare-ups may occur.
  • Don’t smoke... If you must have a cigarette, stub out the butt thoroughly and keep it until you get to a proper rubbish bin.
  • When planning an outdoor trip, find out from the authorities what the fire risk is, and if there are any special recommendations during fire season or on high-risk days e.g. reserves may prohibit campfires at such times.
Got a good green tip to share? Email me at or post on the EnviroHealth Forum if it's a planet-saver, we'll publish it.

- Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor


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