Thanks to a seasonal drought, Montana forests and grasslands are tinder dry. Rain has become sparse and it does not take much to start a fire.
The other day, I was fishing along a small creek when 4 speeding wheelers came along the side of the creek. One wheeler, must have had a hot muffler or issue with making sparks. The dried grass under the chassis began to burn as they sped away. Using my had and a couple plastic zip bags, I was able to put the flames out. The divers in the wheelers had no idea that they had started a fire.
Over 85% of fires are the result of humans. Despite Smokey the Bear posters and education, campfires are still one of the main ways that fires start. Many campers build a random fire ring. A circle of rocks is supposed to contain the flames. What they don’t realize is that the underground roods can ignite, smolder, and start a fire somewhere down the root system. Small embers can be stoked by the wind to reignite. Pine sap is a great igniter and can explode, spreading flames and molten sap.
Here are some fire smart ways to build your fireplace.
Use the existing rings or metal units supplied by the park service. Fires have been there before.
Dig a pit into the ground maybe a foot or so. This will help to keep the coals contained. If you dig a bit deeper, you can then line the pit with rocks. The fire will need less fuel and keep the heat contained and insulated from roots.
Have an emergency fire bucket handy. A fire extinguisher is also a good idea. During a turkey trip, we had a fire that left the pit as a gust of wind blew through. Several small fires sparked up. Two 5-gallon buckets filled with water here handy and we dampened the flames quickly.
Keep your firewood pile several feet away from the fire.
Have a shovel or large stick that allows you to manipulate the fire, coals, and flames. A shovel is an essential tool for all camping.
Keep your fire smaller and manageable. High flames can ignite overhead branches.
PUT YOUR FIRE OUT!! Many campers leave the fire to burn down and go to bed. One quick breeze can start a fire. Use water and dirt to cover any glowing embers. The dirt form digging into the pit is perfect.
When you are finished with a primitive fire, make it disappear.
If the fire area is full of old coals and trash, make a hole and bury it. Who knows what went into the fire before you were there? Melted plastic, urine, dog waste, and broken glass are common fireplace issues.
Do not burn plastics. Pack out any trash that is not appropriate to burn. Remove any unnatural wastes form your fire and camping area.
Leave a campsite better than you found it!
For more Montana Grant, find him clean and green at www.montanagrantfishing.com.