How to Put out a Campfire

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Is it really camping if there isn’t a campfire? Well, yes it is. But without a campfire, there’s no freshly roasted S’mores, crunchy graham crackers bursting from the seams with melted chocolate and gooey marshmallows.

No hot dogs burned to a crisp on the nearest twig you could find. No risk of starting an accidental wildfire either. As well as igniting one, those campers who want flames dancing around the campsite better know how to put out a campfire.

Improperly putting out a campfire could result in hot coals still burning under the covert coverage of charred wood. And since it’s estimated that about 85 percent of wildfires are directly caused by humans, knowing how to put out a campfire is just as important as knowing how to start one.

Before I get into the basics of putting out a campfire, you need to realize that if you can’t start a campfire safely, you shouldn’t be starting one at all. If you start a campfire, make sure you’re properly prepared to put out your campfire.

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Items You’ll Need for Putting out a Campfire

To put out a campfire, all you’ll need is a bucket of water (likely at least two gallons to spare) and a shovel or another tool that can be used to stir and turn the hot embers of the remnants of campfire remaining. The SOG Folding Shovel is a great addition to your camping supplies because it folds down into a compact piece.

Step 1: Put out the Campfire With Water

After you’ve shared some laughs, food and a few cold ones around the campfire and have decided to call it a night and head to the tent, slowly douse the fire with water in a circular motion from inside to outside. You’ll want to do this slowly to conserve as much water as possible, especially if you’re backpacking in the backcountry.

Dousing the flames in a circular motion from inside to outside stunts the fire’s growth immediately from the hottest point, but you may need to put a little extra water in the middle to cool the heat. Try to use only half of the water you’ve designated for putting out the campfire because you’ll need more. After you’ve done this, move on to step two.

Step 2: Mix Up the Coals and Embers

Once you’ve got all the visible flames extinguished and don’t any more reddish-orange embers glowing from the campfire, stir it up with your handy folding shovel, a nearby stick or anything else that can touch hot coals without melting or burning you.

What you’re doing is mixing up all the embers to expose any that haven’t been hit by water. If you still have logs left, scrape the exposed side to knock off all the embers into the fire pit.

Douse it with water again to wet any pieces of ember that were left previously untouched by the original round of water. While you’re slowly pouring water over the remaining embers, stir them slowly to make sure all sides of the hot embers and coals are getting their fair share of water.

Step 3: Make Sure the Campfire Has Been Extinguished

After you believe every ember and coal has been put out, slowly move your hand over the flame, about 6 inches above the campfire. If you still feel heat emitting from the campfire, you’ll need to keep stirring and dousing.

If you don’t feel any heat, it’s always a good idea to stay by the campfire for a few minutes to ensure strong winds don’t fuel the fire. Sit back and relax (and so some stargazing) while you’re making sure your fire is safely extinguished and that it won’t wreak havoc on the homes of nearby animals and humans.

How to Put out a Campfire Without Water

If you don’t have water and need to put out a campfire, especially for those backpackers in the backcountry conserving your pressure water supply for hydrating and cooking, you can repeat the steps mentioned above with dirt or sand.

As long as you cover the campfire with dirt or sand, stir up the embers and coals, and throw some more dirt or sand over the campfire, it should sufficiently smother the flame, cutting off its oxygen supply and extinguishing it sufficiently.

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