There is something about a roaring campfire that makes the campground perfect during cool evenings in the Ocala National Forest. Follow our tips as we teach you how to build the perfect campfire to enjoy with friends and family.
Create Your Fire Bed
Safety comes first when you create a campfire. Camping sites like those in the Ocala National Forest in North Central Florida have designated fire areas that you must use. Select a site away from trees, bushes and plants. Create a fire bed on bare earth with no live or dead grass around it. Dry grass, branches and bark catch fire easily so make sure you find a nice bare spot. If you can’t find a good bed area, make your own by digging and raking away all grass and plant material.
Once you’ve cleared a bed area, gather some dirt and place it in the center of your clean fire bed. Form the dirt into a firm platform that is 3- to 4-inches thick.
Hunt for Wood
Once your fire bed is ready, it’s time to gather your wood. You are looking for the following types of acceptable wood:
- Tinder: Materials like dry bark, dry leaves, dead grass and wood shavings make up your tinder. Tinder catches fire easily and this is the wood you need to get that fire started.
- Kindling: After the fire gets started with tinder wood, kindling helps to keep the fire going. Kindling consists of small twigs and branches that are laid on top of your tinder wood. Look for wood about the width of a pencil. Make sure it’s dry or it won’t burn easily.
- Fuel wood: Fuel wood comes next on the pile and it keeps your fire hot and makes the fire stay consistent. Look for branches of wood that are about the width of your forearm or wrist to act as fuel wood.
When gathering wood for your fire, look for wood that snaps and breaks easily. If the wood bends, it’s too wet and your fire will become smoky. Dry wood always burns best.
Hint: Collect double the amount of tinder, kindling and fuel wood as you think you will need because you will go through a lot of kindling when you start your fire.
How to Lay Your Fire
There are many different ways to lay your fire. The most common types of fires include:
- Teepee fires, which involve placing your tinder in a bundle in the middle of your campfire site and forming a teepee around it with your kindling.
- Lean-to fires are created by sticking a long piece of kindling into the ground at a 30-degree angle with the end of the stick pointing into the wind. Then tinder is placed underneath the support stick and kindling is scattered around the fire.
- Log cabin fires create a small teepee, with wood being stacked on top of it like a real-life version of Lincoln Logs being stacked on top of the teepee.
How to Put Out Your Fire
You’ve enjoyed the fire but now it’s time to extinguish it properly. Follow these steps:
- Have a bucket of water near your campfire at all times for safety reasons. This bucket of water should be sprinkled around carefully to extinguish all the embers. Don’t dump it all in one spot.
- Stir the embers with a stick or shovel as you sprinkle the water on the fire to completely extinguish the fire.
- Keep adding water until you no longer feel heat coming from the ashes.
- Scoop up the ashes and return the land as you found it, spreading the ashes around the campsite to dispose of them. Then replace the dirt and sod you dug up with a shovel.
Fire Extinguish Tip: It takes at least 20 minutes to put out and monitor a fire being extinguished before you can leave the campfire unattended, so plan your time accordingly.
Monitor and Adhere to Fire Restrictions
Always monitor state and local fire restrictions. When camping in North Central Florida in the Ocala National Forest, there is a risk of wildfires due to strong winds and drought conditions. Check if you are in an area with campfire restrictions, listed in the alerts and notices and forest orders.
Read the campfire restrictions that exist year-round in the Ocala National Forest so you know the approved and non-approved fires and where you can make a campfire. Always keep a watch on fire danger ratings too.
Plan a Trip Along the St. Johns River
Make sure to spend some time enjoying the St. Johns River when you visit North Central Florida. Embrace and enjoy the river by renting a boat at Castaways on the River. The marina on the river can handle all of your boat rental needs. We also offer comfortable cottages and motel rooms so you can stay awhile. Call Castaways on the River at (352) 759-3442 to book your boat rental adventure today.