How to Put Out a Fire Properly

Campfires-gone-amok are the most common source of human-caused wildfires. Make sure yours is out cold.
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Campfires-gone-amok are the most common source of human-caused wildfires. Make sure yours is out cold.
Put Out a Fire Properly

(Illustration by David Danz)

Burn Out, Then Fade Away

Don’t skip the final step of fire-making—Or else. Campfires-gone-amok are the most common source of human-caused wildfires. Make sure yours is out cold.

1. Let your fire burn all the way down to ash: no half-burnt sticks or chunky coals.

2. Douse the flames with a few liters of water spread around.

3. Grab a stick and stir, working the water into the ashes and sand from your platform.

4. Using the back of your hand, gauge the temperature of the ashes. If you don’t feel any heat 3 inches above, go closer, and closer, until you find them cool to the touch. If you do feel heat, pour on more water and stir.

5. If you’re using an established fire ring, your work is done. If not, when the ashes are cool to the touch, gather them and sand from your platform and disperse them widely (at least 200 feet from any water sources).

6. Finally, scatter the rocks from your fire ring and collect the tarp or space blanket you laid down. If done properly, the former site of your fire should be invisible.

MUST KNOW: Survival & LNT
If your life’s on the line, you do what you have to do. Find dead, dry twigs hanging off a pine trunk? Take ’em. See sheets of white birch bark still clinging to the trunk? They’re yours. All of them. There are no environmental ethics in survival—there are stories and there are obituaries.