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Be careful! Avoid these five fire safety bad habits


by Mason Hamilton

The following is a paid public service message.

As a prepper/bushcrafter/survivalist, you may be familiar with the idea of starting and maintaining campfires. You probably know how essential fire is for cooking and providing warmth in emergency situations. But what about fire safety?

Fire is your friend in a survival scenario when you practice common sense fire safety habits. By the same token, there are certain bad habits that are risky – and the risks are very real. According to the UK government’s Countryside Code guidelines for fire safety outdoors, a fire can destroy a tent in under a minute.

Being able to make a quick campfire under survival conditions can save your life. But using a dangerous method, such as lighting gasoline with a match, can put you at real risk! (Pantenburg photo)

In England alone, some 27,000 fires are
started annually in areas away from cities and towns. RVs and trailers catch
fire at an average rate of about 360 per year. The fact is that fire should
never be played with. It should always be treated respectfully even among
survivalists serious about honing their skills in protecting themselves.

In reference to the previously mentioned
fire safety bad habits, here are five that put you at risk:

1. Not Being Prepared

The worst of the bad habits among survivalists
is not being prepared. By our nature, preparation is something we put a lot of
stock in. As long as we are preparing for an extended emergency by stocking up
food and water, we might just as well prepare for possible fire emergencies.
How do you do that?

First of all, make plans to secure water that can be used to extinguish a fire. This obviously doesn’t have to mean clean drinking water. It can be water from just about anywhere. Second, invest in a couple of fire extinguishers for outdoor safety. A fire extinguisher will not get you very far in a major incident, but it could keep you from burning down your temporary shelter.

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2. Building Uncontained Fires

Bad habit number two is building uncontained fires. At the very least, campfires should be contained in some sort of pit surrounded by rocks. The idea of containment is to prevent a fire from gradually spreading beyond its perimeter. Containment does not have to be anything elaborate or complicated. However, it is necessary. A fire without containment is an open invitation to serious problems.

A contained fire is a safer fire. This campfire was built in a salvaged steel dryer tub.

3. Carelessly Discarding Smoking Materials

Careless smoking is one of the leading causes of residential fires. It can be equally problematic outdoors. If you are a smoker, be very careful about how you discard your smoking materials. Be careful how you use them as well. A lit cigarette may seem completely harmless, but it can easily start a fire if fuel is available.

When smoking outdoors, be very careful
not to allow burning embers to fall on the ground. Embers should be addressed
by disposing of them in some sort of container. Next, never throw a burning
cigarette on the ground in hopes of extinguishing it with your foot. Doing so
only increases the chances that you will accidentally start a fire. And of
course, never leave matches or lighters lying around.

4. Carelessness with Flammables

Next up is treating flammable materials carelessly. One thing that immediately comes to mind is using flammable materials, like gasoline, and fire starters. If you normally need gasoline or lighter fluid to start a fire, you should probably brush up on your fire-starting skills.

Any flammables, both solid and liquid, in your camp should be stored well away from the fire pit. Anything that could easily catch fire from a stray spark needs to be kept at a reasonable distance. When possible, store those materials upwind. Doing so reduces the risk of stray embers igniting a fire.

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5. Not Keeping Your Distance

The last bad habit is not keeping your
distance while a fire is burning. For example, getting too close to your campfire
could result in your clothing igniting. Turning your back on a fire and standing
too close could result in a stray ember catching your hair on fire.

Once a campfire is established, keep your distance except when adding more fuel. Leave enough room between you and the fire to avoid stray embers. When you do add fuel, be quick but cautious. Never stick your hand directly into the fire and never get close enough to allow your clothing to ignite.

We tend to not give fire safety as much thought as we ought to. As helpful as fire is, it is also dangerous. It demands to be respected. Do yourself and your family a favor by avoiding these five fire safety bad habits. You will all be better off for it.

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