Fire – some good practice tips and some myths busted

Bushcraft camp setup

Fire amongst certain parts of the outdoor community can be a rather emotional subject and quite rightly so in some cases. However, properly used and managed fire has a special place to many on a trip. I’ll start firstly by making a few points as often Bushcraft fire is misunderstood particularly following social media posts of badly managed fire sites, litter strewn around sites of fires etc and that brings me to my 1st point.

Bad Fires
So the kind of individuals that leave litter, camping gear etc at abandoned camps sites are not wild campers or people undertaking Bushcraft or primitive journeys, they are, in short, what’s wrong with today’s society in terms of wastefulness and instant gratification. 

However, these incidents give rise to the misconception that all individuals using fire on their outdoor trips are of an anti-social nature.  So do scenes like the one below, which is actually a controlled fire as part of heather restoration works on a degraded site.

Controlled fire as part of heather restoration
Controlled fire as part of heather restoration.

This brings me to the point of the blog, which is, with rights come responsibility, particularly in terms of outdoor access but also in terms of the outdoors full stop. However, following a few tips often you can have that fire. 

At Woodland Ways we don’t shy away from the fact that we use and teach firelighting on an almost daily basis but we also teach respect and management of risk.

Established fire site.

I suppose given we have an international presence I’ll qualify some of the statements I’m making. I’m mainly referring to Scotland where we have great access to land due to the outdoor access code as well as the responsibility that comes with it.

It has a very simple slogan attached to it “know before you go”, which in short puts the onus on the individual to know what they can and can’t do prior to starting a trip.

And I think this is a fantastic message.

But now to the fire risk tips and our first step is to know the terrain and weather we will be travelling in to start with.

Assessing risk
Prior to even thinking about having a fire I’m looking round at the type of ground, location and weather conditions. If I’m on a bone dry moor or in a conifer plantation then straight away it’s a no and I consider a stove. 

Then I’ll look at the overall location, am I on a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) or a sensitive area? Again that’s a no to fire. 

I’ll also check if I have access to enough water, such as a steam or river, to deal with cooling my fire site after I’m done and clearing it up. 

These are steps to be taken regardless of land ownership etc as they are good practical check

Then I need to consider fuel as despite what you will read in people’s opinions on social media the current fact is that if a tree grows in someone’s ground it’s their tree and so is anything that falls off it – that’s just a fact of UK law. I’ve yet to find anyone who complains about the odd few sticks being collected, however, it’s worth considering this.  It’s also worth considering that this nice piles of sticks may have a purpose

Wildlife habitat
Wildlife habitat.

Such as the ones in the picture above which are deliberately placed dead hedging to help increase biodiversity. Foresters get rather miffed when you burn these.

So often it’s worth picking up a stick here or there as you travel. However, if you are close to a vehicle or have a big strong mate you could carry wood in with you to have a decent fire.

Or with simple bit of prep and kit use a method of leave no trace fire. Shown in the picture below is a small fire pit that folds up to fit in the side pouch of a rucksack and a standard kitchen fire blanket.

Leave no trace
Leave no trace.

This protects the ground and allows you to leave a clean clear site after you leave and dispenses with the need to dig out turf etc under your fire.

The fire pit means that the fire is off the ground and the blanket catches any dripping embers and sparks ensuring you leave a clean, tidy and safe spot once you’re done.

I hope this helps folks keep safe out there particularly after we’ve all been locked up at home for so long.

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