700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

All About Campfire Safety

Nov 04, 2021
Two kids and an adult roasting marshmallows around a campfire.

As the temperature cools down in the evening, families are starting to gather around the campfire. Although campfires are a great way to enjoy the fall weather, roast marshmallows, and make family memories, the open flame can be dangerous for young children.

According to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, more than half of camping injuries in children are caused by campfire burns. Without safety measures in mind, a large open flame and curious hands can turn a cozy family evening into a night in the emergency department. Keep the family fun around the fire going by following these tips when hosting or attending a campfire with children:

Create a Safety Zone

Clear a 3-foot area starting at the base of the fire pit and going out in all directions. Point this safety zone out to children by marking the ground with sticks, bricks, or glow-in-the-dark spray paint tape. Young children should stay outside of this marked off area.

Conduct a Pre-fire Safety Briefing

Before lighting the fire, have everyone gather for a quick conversation about campfire safety.

  • Point out the safety zone as a reminder for young children to stay outside the 3-foot zone
  • Remind children not to touch anything that has been in or near the fire (including sparks on the ground, marshmallows that have caught on fire, sticks that have been in the fire, or the open flame)
  • Show everyone where the water bucket is in case you need to put out the fire quickly
  • Practice the stop, drop, and roll technique so they know what to do if their clothes catch on fire

Keep Fire Building for the Adults

Set the expectation that building the fire is a job for the adults only. Keep kids involved by giving them a job like gathering sticks and leaves for the fire. Remember to only use natural materials and matches to start the fire. Accelerants like gas, lighter fluid, kerosine, or alcohol can lead to serious injuries.

Practice Active Supervision

Eliminate distractions and keep an eye on children around the firepit. Much like at the swimming pool, make sure at least one adult is responsible for keeping the child(ren) safe. It is also a good idea to have an adult or older child roast marshmallows for the younger children so they aren’t tempted to get too close to the flames or put the hot marshmallow in their mouth before it has cooled down.

Fully Extinguish the Fire

At the end of the night, pour a bucket of water over the entire fire area. Coals from the fire have the potential to burn skin for up to 24 hours after the flame has been put out. After you have poured the water over the logs, stir with a stick to ensure all the embers have gone out. Make sure children know that even after clean-up the fire pit cannot be touched.

To keep your family memories happy ones, practice these safety tips at your next family campfire.

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Laura Dattner
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.