Sitting outside and enjoying the warmth, smell and sight of a roaring fire is one of the joys of camping. If you’re planning on lighting a fire, there are personal responsibilities and rules and regulations that you must follow to protect people, pets and the planet from danger.

In this guide to campfire safety, we’ll provide you with information and advice, giving you the confidence to start, manage and control a campfire.

Are you allowed to start a campfire?

In the UK, you’re allowed to create a campfire if you have the landowner’s explicit permission. Campsite owners will often allow you to light campfires (and even sell you firelighters, kindling, and logs) but will have their own rules that you’ll have to follow.

Never assume you can light a campfire. Always check with the landowner first.

You’ll often see the remnants of campfires across beaches in the UK – but that doesn’t always mean it’s legal. You’ll need to check the local regulations on each beach to ensure it’s safe to light a fire. Many beaches will restrict when and where you can light fires and you should always respect them as they’re there to keep you and other beach users safe.

Campfire safety: Expert advice and guidance for a safe outdoor fire

So, we’re going to assume you’ve got the landowner’s permission to light a fire and are ready to start. Here’s our step-by-step guide to safely lighting, controlling and extinguishing a campsite fire.

Check the rules

Before breaking out the firelighters, read the campsite’s rules. The landowner is likely to say where you can (and can’t) light a fire, how to prepare the land and any precautions you may need to take.

Be sure to follow the rules, or you could be looking for somewhere else to sleep that evening!

Prepare the land (or use a firepit)

If your campsite provides a firepit for you to use, then use it. They’re simple to set up, safe and suitable for warming large groups of people.

If you need to build your own fire, then take your time to do it properly. The tipi technique works well: create a ring of stones to contain the fire, then build a bundle of sticks in the centre, propping logs up in a tipi shape.

The Scouts have a great guide on how to build a campfire, so if you’ve never built one before, then start there.

Don’t use flammable liquids to start your fire

It can be tempting to get the fire going quickly by adding things like lighter fluid or gas but don’t. These can be volatile and dangerous, rapidly causing your fire to get out of control.

Keep water and a shovel on hand

You’ll need to ensure your fire doesn’t get out of hand, so have a shovel and water close by. You can use water to douse the fire and the shove to reposition logs or cover the fire with dirt or sand.

Stay safe (especially with kids and pets)

It’s tempting to crowd around a fire and enjoy the warmth, smell and atmosphere but it can be dangerous. Ensure that everyone around the fire always stays a safe distance from the flames.

Fire can be attractive to kids and pets, so always keep a close eye on them, protecting them from danger.

Watch the wind direction

A strong wind can spread campfires, with dangerous consequences. When the ground is dry, even a few embers from the fire can catch light.

While you may love the smell of smoke, others might not so keep an eye on where the wind is going when setting your fire to avoid it blowing onto other campers.

Monitor and manage the campfire

If you start a fire, you’re responsible for it. Ensure that you (or someone you trust) are always in control of it. That means watching it at all times, adding more logs when necessary, and ensuring it stays inside the pit or stone borders.

Extinguish the fire safely

When it’s time to go to bed, don’t leave the fire to burn out, but extinguish it properly. Douse the fire with water, move the ashes with the shovel, and then add more water.

It’s up to you to ensure the fire is completely extinguished. It takes just minutes for a fire to grow, spread and endanger other people. Even if it looks like it’s been extinguished, make sure.

What can I do if I can’t have a campfire?

Some landowners won’t allow you to start a campfire, but you can still enjoy cooking and eating outside. At Halfords, you’ll find a huge range of camping gear for outdoor adventures, including portable gas stoves (and the gas you need!).

Our favourite is the Halfords Double Stove with Grill, which gives you everything you need to cook, fry, and grill a delicious meal wherever your journey takes you.

So, that’s our guide on staying safe when enjoying an open fire while you’re camping. Just remember to be responsible, cautious, and clean up when you leave (for more camping etiquette, check out our blog on the Countryside Code).

If you need anything else before your trip, you can find a huge range of camping essentials at Halfords.