CAMPFIRE SMOKE!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: July 9, 2024

Campfires are great for heat, cooking, and providing light but they also make smoke. This smoke can be bad for your health and create a smokey stink that will get into your clothes and hair. 

My mother used to laugh after I came home from a Boy Scout weekend. Me and all my gear smelled like smoke. I did not notice the stink because I was living in it. A good washing and plenty of fresh air was the only way to get rid of the smokey smells. 

Campfire smoke contains the chemicals of whatever you are burning. These chemicals can be damaging to your lungs. Heated air can be even worse. Heat and smoke involve moving molecules. 

Whenever smoke happens around a campfire, someone is the smoke’s friend. The smoke just follows them wherever they move. If they are standing, sitting, or moving, the smoke follows them around. Some of this could be the wind.

This smokey problem is simple Physics. The smokey victim is creating a low-pressure vortex. This means that when they get too close to the fire, the airflow to the fire changes. Since they are cooler and close, the molecules of the heated air flow toward the lower pressure space that they are creating. 

The hotter the fire, the less smoke. 

So, how can you avoid being the Smoke Attractor?

Build a Horseshoe shaped fire ring   This creates a consistent airway for oxygen to flow into your fire and pass out a consistent path. 

Build the fire on level ground, away from other rocks, logs, and obstacles.

Burn wood that is dry   Seasoned wood burns faster and hotter. Green wood will steam and smoke. 

Do not burn pressure treated wood    Railroad ties, PT lumber, painted or stained wood, and manufactured wood contain toxins and burn slower. 

Burn wood that is smaller in size keeps your wood six inches and smaller in diameter.

Do not burn trash/debris   Trash, newspaper, and junk has toxins from ink, paints, and other chemicals which become airborne. These will contaminate any food. 

Check the wind    Place the opening of your horseshoe fire ring into the wind. Place a large back rock or shield to deflect heat and smoke upwards. 

Stay at least five feet away.   Clothes absorb heat from the fire and attract the smoke to come along with the hot molecules. 

Sit closer to the ground    A higher chair creates different air temperatures and pressures under and around you that will attract the smoke. 

Dig into the ground to contain the fire   Avoid placing the fire atop tree roots that can burn underground and travel. Line the pit with rocks or sand. Leave an air pathway at he open horseshoe end. 

A couple of other campfire tips include.

Keep a rake or long handled shovel nearby. This helps to work the coals, move wood, and deal with any escaping flames or sparks. 

Have a bucket of water nearby. A 5-gallon bucket with a lid also serves as a seat or footrest, until needed to put the fire out. 

Fires are fun but pay attention to what goes into the fire

Montana Grant

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