Know bonfire safety rules and teach your children how to be safe this summer.
Few things are as enjoyable on a summer night as a campfire, bonfire, or a fire on the beach. Just remember to be safe while having fun. It's important to stay educated about bonfire safety and educate your children—young and old—about proper bonfire protocol and the do’s and don’ts when starting a fire or hanging out by one.
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Guidelines for Recreational Fires
To practice bonfire safety when maintaining an open fire, locate it more than fifty feet from any structure. Fire size should be kept to a minimum so as not to create an excess amount of flying burning embers. Ideally, a fire pit with a three-foot maximum size should be built on soil or sand and should be surrounded by more sand, rocks, bricks, or steel. A water source should be kept nearby to extinguish the fire when the event is complete (or in the case of an emergency).
Any fire larger than three-feet wide is considered a ceremonial bonfire and may require a permit. Check with your local fire department before starting a fire of that size to see if a permit is needed.
Bonfire Safety Do’s
• Wet down any grass in the area surrounding the fire.
• Have a live hose or water supply nearby.
• Select a site away from trees, bushes, and man-made structures.
• Be wary of nearby dead grass, dry leaves, branches, and bark.
• Keep small children a reasonable distance from the fire.
• Supervise small children at all times (including your four-legged ones!).
• Use only dry, untreated wood to build your fire (free of paint, stains, or other treatments).
• Have the appropriate tools to add or adjust logs.
• Start putting out your fire at least 20 minutes before you plan to leave the area.
Bonfire Safety Don’ts
• Never start a bonfire or stoke a bonfire with accelerants like lighter fluid, gasoline, or kerosene.
• Never throw anything into a bonfire. Warn children that plastic bottles or juice boxes with wax surfaces are hazardous and should be thrown into the trash. Aluminum fumes are toxic, so keep foil and cans away from the fire. Tinder, kindling, and wood should be the only materials in your fire and should be strategically placed.
• Moist wood like cedar and pine can create potentially dangerous sparks and should be avoided.
• If your wood bends and does not break, it is too wet to be burned and will cause a lot of irritating smoke that can hurt little ones’ eyes.
• Never leave the fire site unattended or walk away without ensuring the fire and embers are sufficiently extinguished. If you feel heat when your hand is a foot from the embers, it is still too hot to leave. Add more water or sand and stir with a stick.
• Do not mix bonfires and fireworks.
Supervise Little Kids and Educate Older Ones
If your children are too young to retain the do’s and don’ts of bonfire safety, it's your job to keep them a safe distance from the fire and to supervise them at every moment. It only takes a second for an accident to happen. Keep an eye on loose clothing, long hair, or anything that can accidentally catch fire, like a favorite stuffed toy as a child runs by. Discourage running or playing too close to the fire.
Older teenagers and even college-aged children should be educated about fire safety before attending or starting a bonfire. Alcohol has been revealed as a contributing factor to over 60% of burns received at campfires, beach fires, and bonfires. If you're of drinking age, drink responsibly and ensure that at least one member of your party is sober and on fire watch.
When Roasting Marshmallows or Hot Dogs at a Bonfire
Make sure your stick is at least 3 feet long. Extendable, metal skewers are the safest but will be hot to touch. Take care when handling and extinguishing a flaming marshmallow.
When Bonfire Safety Lessons Aren’t Enough
Despite your best efforts, and even when people obey the rules, accidents happen. Teach your children to stop, drop, and roll. Have a burn kit on hand, just in case, and a phone to dial 911 if things go really bad.
Most Importantly, Have Fun
There is nothing better than the cozy warmth of a crackling fire surrounded by loved-ones, friends, or family. Practicing bonfire safety will ensure your time fireside will be even more pleasurable. Arming your children with bonfire safety rules will allow them to both enjoy and respect the power of a summer fire.
Before attending any bonfires this summer, check in with us to find out if your insurance needs are up to date. At Pekin Insurance, we take special care to provide families and individuals with affordable insurance and quality coverage.
Do you know the best ways to construct a fire to keep it burning? Are there any other bonfire safety tips to add to our list? Let us know in the comments!