Dave Wallace sent this timely piece of advice in.
In California, and, indeed, many parts of the West – the whole country, actually, prevention of uncontrolled wildfire is critically important. So when we camp out in the Sierras, on the last night of a multi-day backpack, we occasionally get carried away and have a bigger fire than might be prudent.
The National Forests have some rules:
Prepare Your Site – Find a level spot away from overhanging branches, brush, or dry grass. Keep away from the base of a hill. Escaped fires travel uphill fast. With a shovel, clear a circle 10 feet wide down to bare dirt. Hollow out a fire pit 6 inches deep and 2 feet across at the center of the cleared circle. Pile the dirt around the fire pit. Keep your fire small. Use existing fire rings where available to reduce the number of disturbed areas and damage to soil cover and vegetation.
Beware of the Duff – Duff is the layer of decomposing wood material that lies on the forest floor between pine needles and bare dirt. Many times it may look like dirt, but it isn’t. Duff burns, dirt doesn’t. It allows even the smallest ember to smolder for days, most times underground and unnoticed, until enough heat is built up to produce flames. Don’t let the duff fool you.
Attend to Your Fire – Never leave your campfire unattended, even for a few minutes or if you take a nap.
Drown the Fire – Drown your campfire 1/2 hour before you break camp. Use your shovel to separate the burning pieces of wood in the fire pit.
Stir and Mix – Stir and mix water with the ashes until the fire is out. Don’t try to bury the fire under dirt, it can smolder for hours and then escape.
Drown Briquettes – Charcoal briquettes should be extinguished by dumping into a pail of water, mixing thoroughly, and then place into the fire pit.
Feel the Ashes – Feel the ashes to be sure the fire is out. Before you leave the campsite, check the area within 50 feet of the fire for sparks or embers that may have escaped.
Come Prepared – Obtain your campfire permit, bring your shovel, and a pail for water.
We have only one issue with the above instructions: Those of us who depend on having functional fingers to make a living Feel the Ashes with our bare feet.
We foot out the pyre.