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Image Although fires are comforting and beautiful to look at night time.  The scar a fire leaves behind during the day is much less attractive, with a mass of partially burnt timber, coals and a section of soil that will be dead for years.  The burning of timber also destroys the habit of many insects and animals.  Consider using stoves and candles instead, if a campfire is important part of your experience than consider careful the environment that you visit.






Avoiding fires

Use alternatives

  • Stoves
  • Portable ovens
  • Candles (may not be able to be used in fire bans)


If having a fire

  • Always be prepared to not have a fire
  • Know if fire bans are in place
  • Know the rules of the park you are in
    This fire is way to big
    This fire is way to big +
  • Use existing fire scars in a durable area
  • Collect wood thinking about off track techniques
  • Collect minimal amount of wood and only collect dead fallen branches
  • Minimise the amount of walking around the fire
  • Minimise the amount of wood you burn – keep fires small
  • Have water nearby in case someone burns themselves.
  • Allow the fire to burn completely to ash
  • Ensure fire is fully out and cold when unattended
  • Scatter the ashes



Pre-trip Planning

Pre planning is the key to many of the minimal impact techniques.  Please consider the following points when planning, packing for and speaking to people about your trip.


No Fires

  • Ensure group is aware and committed to having no fires
  • Ensure that you carry a stove and cooking equipment
  • Carry alternatives such as non-drip candles.


Planning to have a fire

  • Ensure the environment can sustain a fire and that an existing fire place exists
  • Check with land owners to see if fires are permitted
  • Check weather forecasts and fire bans
  • Carry fire matches / lighter
  • Know how to light and extinguish a fire
  • Know appropriate first aid in the case of burns


The Rational

small fires have less impact
small fires have less impact +

Fires create a lot of heat and burn timber. The heat denatures the organic material in soil and kills living organisms and seeds in the soil. The timber that is burnt is often home to insects or reptiles. The fire leaves a scar on the ground that can take decades to recover.


Sitting and chatting around a campfire is a great part of the outdoor experience so that is why there some alternatives have been suggested and if you do light a fire some guidelines to minimise the impact. The lowest impact option will to decide to not light a fire.


Fire bans and regulations.

Some areas are declared fuel stove only areas. In these areas campfires are always banned. This is usually because there supply of timber is scarce or that a fire will cause unacceptable significant damage.

Never light a fire on peat type soil. Peat is combustible and is very difficult to extinguish. The fire may burn underground for many years destroying vast tracks of land.


Fire bans are regulated by the states and are based around boundaries of local government areas. Some parks will carry there own specific fire ban status that is sometimes higher than that of the surround area. Fire bans are there to protect the area you are travelling though, and you should adhere to them strictly. Ignorance is no excuse if you are in the bush for days you may not be able to find out the official fire risk ratings, you will need to make a judgment call, but always sit of the cautious side. Fire bans are based on a number of factors including the forecast and the recent history of temperature, wind, rain, and humidity.


Because weather can change rapidly always be in a position to not have a fire, this will impact on your menu options so careful planing is important


Remember that most portable stoves can't be used in a total fire ban either.


Use of existing fire scar

Using an existing scar reduces the area of damage. Since the majority of impact that is caused is from the fire itself then it is best to keep that damage to a specific area. It would appear that repeated use of the one spot limits the damage to the wider area. If there is a choice of fire scars then use the one on the most durable surface.


Never light a fire in rock overhang, cave or next to a cliff wall. The damage from the smoke will take decades to fade


Use dead fallen branches

Branches that have fallen recently that are not green, will burn best and be less likely to be home to insects and animals than branches that have started to rot. Ripping branches off trees is not permitted in national parks and leaves obvious scaring on the tree.


Let the fire burn completely

About an hour before you go to bed or plan on leaving the fire stop putting new wood on the fire and just feed in timber that is partially burnt. These will mean that all the timber will burn up leaving just ashes and not big coals and partially burnt sticks. Ashes can then be scattered over a large area among the trees where the timber was collected (make sure that the ashes are cold). This will return some of the material to the soil from where it grew in the first place.


Ensure the fire is extinguish completely

As mentioned above it is best to let the fire burn out through starvation to ensure that it is fully burnt. Once this is done the coals and ashes can still be hot enough to ignite again. Therefore always cool the fire with lots of water and stir the ashes until it is cold.


Every year bushfires are started by well meaning campers, do not be one of them. Such bushfires causes enormous damage to the bush.


Your Say

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Marcus.mcleod-hemsworth - Thank you | 2012-11-12 03:11:51
thank you very much i an in yer9 ay chatham high school in taree nsw 2430
i am in a outdoor education class and we have to make the minimal inpact we can and i have found that this sit is very realable and trust worthy thank you very much
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