A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Campfire 101: Safety and burn care tips

Campfires are a great way to spend time with family and friends as long as you build and tend them safely. You could get burned if you’re careless. That’s why it’s important to keep safety in mind and a first aid kit ready to properly administer burn care.

Son helping dad build a campfire with safety, first aid and burn care in mind

Build campfires away from tents and supervise children and fires at all times.

Follow these tips for an accident-free campfire adventure.

Build a safe campfire

Look at your environment before you build a campfire. Don’t start a fire in dry or windy conditions.

Build your fire in a designated ring or pit at least 15 feet away from buildings, tents, overhanging branches, shrubs, dry grass and leaves.

Start your campfire with dry twigs and small sticks. Don’t use an accelerant such as gas or kerosene to start a fire. The flames can follow the vapors to your hand or the bottle and cause serious burn injuries.

Keep your campfire small and manageable. Store firewood upwind and away from the fire. Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby to put out the fire when needed.

Supervise children around campfires

“Talk with kids about campfire safety,” said Amy Kramas, registered nurse and burn program coordinator at Marshfield Clinic Health System. “Explain the dangers of fire and campfire safety rules before building a fire. Never leave children unattended around a campfire or hot fire pit.”

Keep children a safe distance away with a ‘circle of safety’ of at least three feet from the fire’s edge. Mark the safe zone by drawing a line in the dirt or making a circle with pebbles. Do not let children run or play near the fire.

Use long sticks to roast marshmallows or hot dogs. Parents should handle the roasting duties for very young children.

Put campfires out completely

Completely snuff out the fire and coals by pouring water on your campfire and stirring the ashes and wood with a shovel to make sure everything is drenched. Repeat this process until the ashes and wood are cool.

If the campfire is not completely put out, wind can rekindle embers and start a wildfire.

Kids should stay away from the fire pit even though the fire is out. The pit can stay hot for 24 hours after the fire has been extinguished.

Burn care first aid

If clothing catches on fire, use the stop, drop and roll method.

For minor skin burns, run affected area under cool water until pain is reduced or relieved. Do not use ice or cold water.

Remove all clothing and jewelry from affected area. For burn care, cover burns with a clean bandage or sheet that won’t stick to the skin from a first aid kit. Keep the burn clean. Do not apply ointments, oils or sprays to the burn until evaluated by medical personnel.

“It’s important to seek medical attention for all burn injuries, regardless of severity,” Kramas said.

Call 911 or get emergency medical help for severe burns that cover large areas, electrical burns and burns to the hands, feet, face or genitals.

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