Imagine it; a starry sky, a gentle breeze rustling the trees, you and your friends or family are sitting around a roaring fire. Campfires help keep you warm, cook your meals and keep animals from wandering too close. Having a campfire is a quintessential part of camping. It is a responsibility and knowing where you can start is part of that.
Campfires are not illegal as long as they comply with the following government agences.
· Bureau of Land Management
· U.S. Forest Service
· National Park Service
· Bureau of Reclamation
· U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
· Army Corps of Engineers
By the end of the article, you will learn how and where you can build a legal campfire.
When getting settled in to a campground, many people want to get to the campfire. Different places have different campfires restrictions and what they will do with them. The rules are typically set by governing bodies across countries with jurisdiction over different lands or camping grounds. We will look at the different organizations and the various restrictions that can be placed when trying to have a campfire.
Bureau of Land Management
The Bureau of Land Management has nothing against people starting campfires, as long as it is only "public land." To clarify, public land is land that the Bureau has stated has no specific designation or purpose. Another stipulation the BLM has is making sure the fire does not put anyone in danger.
As long as the campfire is maintained and never left without supervision, the BLM has no issue. This is the policy for the Bureau as a whole, but they do allow their field offices to create their own unique rules for the land they have jurisdiction over. Before you head out camping and start a fire, you should click here, BLM, to see if the field office has any such rules designated for the area you will be camping in.
U.S. Forest Service
The US Forest Services does allow people to have campfires. Their main goal is to follow proper fire safety if people start a fire. So, their rues for fire safety are things like being sure there are no flammable substances near the fire to avoid it spreading, leaving a fire unattended, and not ensuring a fire you started is thoroughly put out.
The main goal of the Forest Service is to keep the forests safe, and a considerable part of that is to make sure they do not burn down. Part of doing that is by setting rules and restrictions in place when they see fit. From time to time, depending on weather and seasons, the Forest Service will ban campfires altogether.
An example of this is during the hot and dry days of summer; there could be a chance of wildfires quickly spreading, so campers may be prohibited from having campfires or using some outdoor cooking equipment.
As with the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Services give their field offices authority to place their own rules and guidelines in place as they see fit. Generally, though, when they do allow fires, it is rarely allowed to be an open campfire. Typically, the fire should be contained in a metal vessel such as a can or fire pit.
Only under certain conditions will they allow an open fire. This usually comes with a list of guidelines that the campers must follow, such as making sure there is an area of at least five feet around the fire cleared of all debris or flammable substances as well as have the materials to extinguish the fire always ready and nearby.
In some instances, a permit is required to have a campfire. One can be acquired or purchased through the Forest Services offices on-site and at their website. Please make sure you check their website before you head out camping to avoid any unwanted problems over the course of your camping trip. Before you go camping Click here to find out the campfire rules about where you are planning to camp.
National Park Service
The National Park Service does allow campfires in their parks but only in the designated and appropriate areas. Campers are not allowed to start open flames or use anything other than the receptacles provided by the Park itself to have a fire. Limitations on fires go beyond campfires as well. There are rules against lanterns and cooking equipment as well.
The Park superintendent has the final say over the rules of their Park. Depending on the conditions and seasons, they can ban campfires entirely across the whole Park or even specific sections if they deem it necessary for the Park and campers' safety.
The fire safety guidelines extend to the backcountry, too, so those out in the woods are not allowed to start fires unless they do so in a designated area the Park has permitted. Click here to find the National Park Service information for you next trip.
Bureau of Reclamation
The Bureau of Reclamation may be an organization you are not acquainted with. They help maintain the water and its usage in the western states by operating projects such as dam construction and the irrigation systems used by farmers and Native American lands. They also run many developed campgrounds used for recreation.
They do not allow open campfires at their sites, but the rules may differ from location to location. Each campground's rules will be displayed at the entrance on a large sign so you can easily find them. They do allow dispersed camping and with campfires, but there are several stipulations that come along with that.
Rules such as do not leave the fire unattended are making sure to properly dispose and extinguish any remainder of the fire are listed. Also included in the rules are things such as what is not allowed to be burned, such as anything toxic or harmful to the environment, and making sure accelerants such as gasoline are appropriately transported.
If you are going camping on Native American Lands, click here to find out if they have dispersed camping with campfires.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Fish and Wildlife Service watch over the nature refuges across the country. They do no explicitly ban fires from the refuge but only allow them in designated locations. The guidelines listed on their website mainly focus on keeping the area safe from the chance of wildfires. Like not smoking on the grounds and ensuring a fire is completely put out, stipulations are commonly listed, and make sure any campfire is constantly attended.
To find the designated areas where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows campfires click here.
Army Corps of Engineers
Unlike the other organizations on the list, the Army Corps of Engineers does not allow campfires on a majority of their land. Campfires are explicitly permitted at campgrounds or areas set aside for camping. Even in areas where campfires are permitted, they must be confined to metal containers such as cans or fire rings.
There are also rules for not burning harmful substances such as tires, plastics, or treated woods. Each ACOE location is allowed to create further regulations as they see fit and will display them near the entrance of their site. Check with the Army Corps of Engineers about your location.
Fire Restrictions at Parks.
Even though campfires are generally allowed at National Parks and other camping grounds, there will be times when restrictions are put into place. For instance, National Parks have two stages of fire restrictions that warn people of what they can and cannot do with fire during certain times. Once a situation in the Forest has progressed past stage two, then the Park is closed to visitors for their safety.
Stage One Restrictions
During Stage One, the Park only permits campfires in the designated firepits and locations they have prepared themselves. They do allow for the use of self-contained fires such as pressurized or bottled liquid fuel stoves, lanterns, or heating devices.
Provided such devices are used in barren or cleared areas of all overhead and surrounding flammable material within 3 feet of the device. When in effect, Stage 1 restrictions are for the entire Forest, except in designated Wilderness areas and the recreation sites
Stage Two Restrictions
During, Stage two, restrictions on fires are further extended to any flames, including the ones created by items using liquid fuel and any other means that were permitted before. The rules for stages one and two also dictate that it is prohibited to even be around a fire, so even if you are not the one who started it, you can be at fault for being around a nonpermitted fire.
Stage two also places a ban on smoking unless the person is in an enclosed vehicle or space or they are in a clear and barren area with at least three feet of clearance all around them, free of any debris.
Fines can range from $100 to $5,000
Be aware of the consequences of having an illegal fire at a National Park. If you have a campfire going and you refuse to abide by the Park guidelines, you are placing not only yourself in danger but the whole Park and everyone attending that day. Aside from the lethal consequences of your actions, there are legal ones as well.
Be warned. The National Parks Service can and will issue tickets with fines ranging from $100 to $5000. The penalties are just the minimum penalty. Having an illegal campfire or even just attending one can get you up to a year in jail. Keep that in mind the next time you think about starting a fire and think no one will find out.
Can I have a fire pit in my backyard?
The answer is yes in accordance with your town, county and state laws. We can say that you can have a fire pit in your backyard as long as you build it in compliance with your local authorities approval..
Even if the fire pit is legal, there will still be rules you must follow where the hole can go, how it is to be built, and under what conditions fire pit can be used. The laws are set to ensure you, your neighbors, and the surrounding properties remain safe.
Campfires are a responsibility and a privilege
Campfires are a responsibility and a privilege. There are many places you can enjoy them legally while camping, but it is up to you, as the fire starter, to maintain and abide by the laws to keep the campfire within the legal limits. The National Parks and other forests are tremendous and should be protected and preserved for the future. Do your part and know the laws around campfires before.
If you would like to learn how to build safe campfires then please read, 9 Easy Steps To Build A Safe Campfire.
All the best for a safe camping trip,