How To Extinguish A Campfire

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Learning the proper way to extinguish a campfire is often overlooked.  

We're always searching for the best way to build a roaring fire, but what happens when it's time to leave your fire or go to bed for the night?

As a responsible camper, hunter or outdoor enthusiast, learning how to put out a campfire is extremely important.

After all, no one wants to be the person responsible for the next forest fire or accidental fire in their backyard.

Anytime you consider building a fire it's important to plan ahead.  

Is it too windy to build a fire?  

Do you have the fire contained inside a fire pit?  

How will you put the fire out when you're done?

By thinking ahead and using these simple steps you'll be able to build a campfire for everyone to enjoy, and more importantly......know that it's completely out when you're done with it.

How Long Does It Take For A Campfire To Burn Out?

For a campfire to burn out completely, you will need to wait until the fuel source (the wood) burns up completely.

The air will then cool down the hot embers.

You can wait for this whole process to be complete, but it will likely take some time - up to 12 to 24 hours in total.

Until then, it’s not safe to leave a campfire burning - so make sure you take some of the steps detailed below to get the fire completely out.

How To Extinguish A Campfire

There's no better time to enjoy a campfire than a comfortable summer night with family and friends. 

However, the hot daytime temperatures and lack of rainfall typically creates an environment where an unattended fire can spread out of control.

In order to properly extinguish a campfire you need to plan ahead

Stop adding wood to the fire and allow it to start burning down about 30-45 minutes before you plan on going to bed.

Ideally, you want the fire to burn down to just ashes without any wood left inside your fire pit. 

You need to get rid of your fuel source!

This is a time-consuming process.

Next, slowly pour a lot of water over the entire fire.

Make sure to completely soak all the embers even if they're not glowing.

As you pour water over the fire you'll notice a hissing sound that's created when the cold water comes into contact with the hot fire. 

Continue adding water until the hissing stops.

Make sure to pour water around the edge of your fire pit since hot embers can hide under rocks and inside creases.

Next, take a shovel or stick and stir the ashes. 

Scrape hot embers off any wood that didn't burn down and continue to stir until everything is cold to the touch. 

Add more water as necessary and continue stirring until the fire is completely out.

Thoroughly check the area for hot spots to be completely sure the fire is out. 

How Do You Extinguish A Campfire Without Water?

Although water works the best, if you don't have access to water you can use dirt and sand to stir into the embers to extinguish a campfire.

Using the same method as above, stir in the dirt and sand until the fire is completely out. 

It's important to stir the fire and not just dump the dirt on top which will allow the fire to smolder under the dirt.

To extinguish a campfire without water on hand, the key here is to allow the fire to burn up completely.

The fuel and wood need to turn completely to coals. Then you can stir dirt or sand onto them.

Another option you can pursue requires a bit of forethought but it’s an effective way to put a fire out if you know ahead of time that you aren’t going to have any water.

You will need to build your fire in a deep pit. This will make it much easier for you to use the surrounding dirt to put out the fire.

Finally, if you don’t have water, you can always rotate the soil beneath the hot embers.

Let the fire burn down completely, then dig down into the stack of ashes with a shovel. This will allow you to more easily use the dirt to dilute the hot embers.

The key to putting out a fire without any water is to make sure you have the right tools on hand.

You will need to make sure you have a shovel, which will help you dump sand and dig around the fire.

You’re not going to want to do it with your hands, after all!

How To Put Out A Beach Bonfire

When it comes to putting out a campfire on the beach, the first step you should take is to choose the right site.

If there is one, build your fire in a pre-designated fire ring. If there aren’t any fire rings, make sure fires are actually allowed (some beaches ban them).

Look to build your fire at a spot where the water stops at high tide.

Choose a location that is also far away from debris, brush, or trees.

When it comes time to leave, douse the fire thoroughly with water and bury the remaining embers.

Feel the embers before you leave and make sure they are cool to the touch.

If you built your fire around beach rocks, make sure there are no embers beneath them that could ignite with a slight breeze or gust of wind.

Overall - Extinguish A Campfire

Enjoying a campfire is a lot of fun.  The warmth and sounds of a crackling fire at a campsite is something everyone should enjoy.

Just remember one thing.....when it's time to go to bed or leave your campsite, take a few extra minutes to ensure your fire is completely out.

Ideally, you shouldn’t wait to put out the fire until the last minute - when you’re ready to leave or go to bed.

Instead, start the process of extinguishing the fire a while before you plan to pack up camp or head to bed.

Finally, make sure you always check the campfire for hot spots, embers, and sparks.

Even if it looks like the fire has been completely extinguished, you might be surprised at how the tiniest spark or burning ember can reignite a fire later on.

As always, don’t forget - fire safety is everyone's responsibility.


About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.