Keeping your children safe near a campfire

keeping children safe near a campfire

When I first started camping with Nicholas, I never really thought about fire safety. I just took it for granted that I knew what I was doing as it is no different to a BBQ in our back garden during the summer.

It was not until we began to hire fire pits that I seriously began to think about fire safety implications.

So I decided to research what safety precautions I needed to follow to ensure that our camping trips were safe when using BBQ and fire pits.

During camping trips, fire safety precautions should be followed closely. BBQ and fire pits must be no closer than 19ft / 6 meters from a tent, awning, trees, shrubs, or other flammable material and liquids. Both need to be placed on cleared flat ground from dried debris, ideally with a fireproof base. Never leave unattended, and children or pets must be a safe distance away. Correct safety lighting blocks or fluids should always be used, with water or sand available to distinguish any flames if required.

How many outdoor fires are there per year

During 2019 there were over 27,000 outdoor fires per year, which is on average 73 fires per day. These fires have started either on grass, heathland or moorland around the UK.

From the 4th of July 2020, due to Covid – 19, UK staycation camping holidays have increased by 15%, increasing 4,050 outdoor campfires. Average of 85 outdoor fires per day.

It only takes 60 seconds for a fire to destroy a tent

Although tents are flame retardant, nothing is ever entirely fireproof. A tent can be destroyed within 60 seconds from one single burning ember from your BBQ or firepit.

Never light your fire pit or BBQ inside your tent or under awnings.

Leave a 6m between your tent and BBQ

You must leave 6m / 19ft spacing between your open fire and tent, awnings, and other flammable materials.

Embers can easily be carried in the wind and quickly damage or alight your tent.

How to avoid ground fire when camping

The intense heat from a fire pit or a BBQ can easily ignite or damage areas such as grass

Usually, the campsite will offer you a fire retardant board, but you can use bricks or a heat resistant rollable matt from Amazon. 

Selecting the where to start your BBQ or fire pit

When deciding where to place your fire pit or BBQ, you need to consider the following:

  • Not near children play areas
  • Can you easily set boundaries so avoid your children from running near the fire
  • Clear area of any dried grass, or other foliage
  • Place on flat ground to avoid accidental tipping
  • Not under near trees or overhanging branches
  • Away from shrubs or bushes
  • Natural shelter from the gusty wind
  • Not in high grass

Set fire boundaries for your children – Use a windbreaker

When children are running around together having fun, fire safety can easily be forgotten in all of the excitement.

We place beach windbreakers at 6m from our fire which acts as a barrier to stop children from running near the fire. This barrier also helps shield your fire from wind and offers you some protection. But it is essential to remember the 6m rule.

Explain to children fire safety

Helping children understand fire safety is essential. Explain the dangers of any fire from an early age. We do this naturally, but it is vital to reinforce the safety aspects when camping, as it is different from the occasional BBQ during the summer.

To help Nicholas be aware of the dangers of fire, I have shown him how to light a fire pit safely. It has helped to remove the curiosity of wanting to investigate.

  • A safe distance from fires
  • Limit exposure to smoke
  • Not to run, play near any fire
  • Set safety boundary
  • Never throw sticks or prod the fire 
  • Never approach a fire without adult supervision
  • Not to play with matches or other flammable materials
  • Teach them how to drop and roll to extinguish flames

Close tent doors and vents

BBQ and wood fire pits give off toxic smoke. If you have a smokey BBQ or fire pit, check that the wind is not moving the smoke directly towards your tent. If so, close the vents and doors.

It is vital to reduce the breathing of smoke and fumes. Especially if your children are inside playing or resting, carbon Monoxide poisoning can occur quickly without you realising it.

Don’t use treated or painted wood. When they burn, toxic chemicals will be released.

Purchase your wood from a retail supplier

I always buy my wood for my fire pit from a retail shop or online from Amazon. To help light the fire, I use dried wooden kindle sticks combined with natural firefighters. Campsites sell wood and kindling at an onsite shop.

Once our fire is alight, I gradually add dried hardwood logs with a longer burning time. Dried hardwood logs are larger and burn less quickly than softwood or undried wood. They produce less smoke, and no toxic fumes are released as they burn.

Lighting safety your BBQ or fire pit safely

Safe to useNot to use
Waterproof matchesPetrol or other flammable liquids
BBQ Lighter blocksPaper (wind can take an ember)
KindleWooden pallet
BBQ Lighter fluidPlastic
Candle lighter
Natural firelighters (Electric / Gas)
Materials to use to light a BBQ or firepit safely

Storing flammable materials away from fires

It is important to remember to keep any flammable liquids or materials away from your fire, including wood, lighter cubes, charcoal, kindle and matches.

Flammable materials should be outside of the 6m and never in a tent, just in case there is a stray ember. All of our flammable materials are in the boot of my car.

Storing flammable materials in the car keeps everything dry, either from rain or damp build up during the night. Plus, it removes any temptation from children.

How to put out your fire safely

Never douse your BBQ with large quantities of water, as this will produce hot steam and can cause injuries to yourself or your children.

About an hour before you want to put out your fire, stop adding fuel.

How to put out a charcoal BBQ

  • Remove cooking grill
  • Stir coals to release heat and to break up any coal
  • Spray gently with water
  • Close the lid ensuring that vents are all close to restrict oxygen
  • Repeat the process until BBQ is extinguished

How to put out a fire pit

  • Allow the wood to burn down, ideally to ash
  • Stir the embers to spread the heat
  • Spray or pour water from a bucket gently to gradually dampen any renaming wood
  • Gently mix the ashed to distribute the water to help cool
  • Check the surround areas for any remaining hot ember
  • Repeat the process and carry out a heat check to confirm that it is extinguished

How to dispose of your campfire ashes

The campsite will have an area where you can dispose of your ashes, although they must be cold. Never place hot ashes in these disposal areas.

If you are confident your ashes are cold and no longer alight, you can tip them directly into the relevant area. But BBQ and fire pits are bulky, so this is not always possible.

We have a small bucket to scrape the cooled ashes into using a small trowel and carry them to the disposal area.

Above all, have fun, keep safe and respect fire.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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