Camping and Fire Safety Tips

Many vacationers enjoy escaping into the wilderness to camp now that the warm weather has arrived. However, there are hazards that go along with camping and the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office offers these suggestions.

Gas appliances and cylinders are the items most often involved in starting unwanted fires and explosions. When an appliance is not in use, the tank should be turned off at the valve.

Change disposable gas cartridges only when completely empty. Replace cartridges and cylinders in the open air, away from any ignition source. Never use a damaged cylinder or one that has been in a fire.

Make sure that flexible pipes are securely clipped and do not leak. Always transport and store a cylinder in a secure and upright position so it will not fall, shift or roll. Never carry it inside a closed trunk. Have the safety plug in place. Remove the tank from the vehicle immediately upon arrival at the destination.

Purchase flame resistant tents and place them a safe distance from a campfire. Keep lanterns and open flames outside the tent and use only flashlights or battery powered devices within. Have a fire extinguisher available.

In recreational vehicles, use only electric or battery lights. Install a battery operated smoke detector in all separate sleeping areas. Clean and properly maintain appliances, gas connections, and fume vents. Place portable heaters away from combustible items and do not block exit ways. Keep a fire extinguisher by the exit door. Prepare and practice a fire escape plan.

In case of fire while driving, pull to the side of the road, turn off the ignition switch and evacuate the vehicle.

In many states and recreational areas, a permit may be required for any campfire or open burn. Check with Park Rangers or the state before lighting a campfire as area fire danger conditions are monitored and, in some cases, permits will not be issued.

Locate the campfire a safe distance from tents, trees or buildings. If a pit is not provided, clear all vegetation and dig one that is surrounded by rocks, before building the campfire. Stones ringing the fire pit may become extremely hot and can burn exposed skin, as well as melt the bottoms of shoes. When building a campfire, do not use gasoline as a starter. The flash flame caused by igniting fuel-soaked materials can reach several feet beyond the perimeter of the fire pit and severely injure bystanders. Build a fire suitable to the task at hand. Avoid huge bonfires when children are present. When cooking on a campfire, use a potholder to pick up utensils or pans. Be alert to changing wind conditions and watch for flying sparks and embers. Stay away from the downwind side and wear snug fitting clothing around campfires. Teach everyone to “stop, drop and roll,” if clothes catch on fire.

Extinguish fires by dousing them with water, stirring the ashes, and pouring more water over the site. Repeat this procedure until the fire is completely out.

Do not smother the fire with sand as this can create an “oven” in which coals continue to burn for hours. ALWAYS keep a water supply nearby in case it is necessary to quickly extinguish the fire. Put out fires and turn off lanterns and stoves before retiring.

A camping adventure is an excellent way to enjoy a variety of family activities. Do not let carelessness be the cause of a devastating vacation. Be extremely careful when camping with children as it is very easy for a child to fall into a campfire. Remember, children are often mesmerized by the open flames and will want to “play” with fire by poking it with a stick or adding fuel to the flames. Teach children to respect fire by setting a positive example.

Contact the Orange Fire Marshal’s Office at 203-891-4711, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or visit the website at for questions or concerns regarding fire safety and prevention.