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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Construct a campfire

It wouldn’t be a camp without a campfire! Collect and sort wood, then learn how to safely build and light a fire.

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You’ll need

  • Tinder (for example, cotton balls and petroleum jelly)
  • Kindling (for example, small sticks)
  • Firewood
  • Matches
  • Fire bucket filled with sand
  • Space to collect a variety of wood and build a fire

Before you begin

  • Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Additional help to carry out your risk assessment, including examples can be found here. Don’t forget to make sure all young people and adults involved in the activity know how to take part safely.
  • Make sure you’ll have enough adult helpers. You may need some parents and carers to help if you’re short on helpers

Getting ready to run this activity

  • Decide where you’ll build your campfire. Choose somewhere where groups will be able to collect a variety of woods – they'll need twigs, sticks, and small branches or logs of various sizes.
  • Make sure the place you choose is safe and accessible for everyone, and that you're able and allowed to build fires there.
  • You may want to bring a selection of different size wood along to supplement what everyone finds.

Staying safe around your campfire

  1. Make sure everybody knows how to be safe around a campfire.
  2. You could run our fire safety activities, such as Sitting safely by a campfire, prior to building the campfire.

Collecting the wood

  1. Gather everyone together and tell them that they're going to learn to build a fire. 
  2. Everyone should split into small groups and an adult should join each small group. 
  3. Each small group should spread out across the space, in areas that are far enough away from the other groups. They should be at least five metres away as a good guide.
  4. Each group should clear their area so it’s free from debris and ready to build a fire.
  5. Now everyone should collect wood. Remember to collect a variety of sizes from small twigs to big logs. Dry wood that snaps and breaks easily is best as this burns well. 
  6. Once a small group has a big enough pile of wood, they should sort it into four piles:
  • The first pile should be wood about as thick as spaghetti.
  • The second should be wood about as wide as a finger.
  • The third should be wood about as thick as a wrist.
  • The fourth should be wood wider than a wrist. 

Building your campfire

  1. Each group should look at the example fires below, the star fire and the ground fire with tower. As a group, decide which fire they’ll build, then think about how their sticks, twigs and logs will work best.
  2. Each group should build their fire in their clear space. They should make sure there’s plenty of kindling in the heart of the structure. 
  3. Once a group is happy with their structure, they should get ready to light the fire. They should make sure the area is clear and that no-one’s wearing anything that could dangle into or over the flames. 
  4. A responsible adult should safely light the newspaper. The adult may need to blow on the flame, fan the flame or add more sticks. 
  5. Everyone should watch their fire carefully, keeping an eye out for which twigs and sticks burn first and burn best, and how the fire catches. Everyone should beware of any stray sparks.
  6. Now's a great chance for everyone to enjoy watching the flames or singing a campfire song together.
  7. A responsible adult should put the fire out safely with sand, soil or water, then rake the area clean. 

An illustration of a star fire, with a bucket of water placed next to it.
An illustration of a ground fire with tower, with a bucket of water placed next to it.

Star fire

Five or six large logs are in a star shape, with smaller pieces of wood placed upright, just like a tepee

Ground fire with tower

This type of fire is made from a layer of large logs and lots of layers of smaller pieces of wood. Each level should criss-cross over the layer below it at the corners.


This activity was a chance for everyone to find out about and develop the skills to build a fire. Sit around the fires and talk about the different steps of building a fire – don’t forget to keep an eye on the fires, and add more wood as needed.

How do you make a safe campfire? Do you just pile wood in a heap and hope it works? No, that's because building and lighting a fire is a skill that takes practice. Can anyone remember a name of a common type of fire?

Fires are also a great way for us to enjoy the outdoors. Does anyone know why fires were important in the past? They used to be a source of heat and light – people would use them to cook or heat food and drink. Now we just plug a kettle in.

Can anyone think of another household task we use equipment for? People could think about washing clothes with a washing machine, or taking a shower. How would people do these things in the outdoors without equipment?


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Outdoor activities

You must have permission to use the location. Always check the weather forecast, and inform parents and carers of any change in venue.

Poles and long objects

Be careful when moving poles or long items. Take care if the ends are sharp. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Gardening and nature

Everyone must wash their hands after the activity has finished. Wear gloves if needed. Explain how to safely use equipment and set clear boundaries so everyone knows what’s allowed.

Fires and stoves

Make sure anyone using fires and stoves is doing so safely. Check that the equipment and area are suitable and have plenty of ventilation. Follow the gas safety guidance. Have a safe way to extinguish the fire in an emergency.

Groups can talk about the shape of fire they’d like to build before they build their own.

The people leading the activity could collect or buy firewood before the activity. They could even lay it out randomly within the area so people can still collect and sort wood without having to venture as far to search.

Make sure the area people search for firewood is accessible to everyone. If you need to, you could set up some wood to find in an accessible area, as suggested in Change the level of challenge.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

You could combine this activity with other requirements from the Camp Craft Activity Badge, such as tent pitching or pioneering.

You could even run them as bases, then gather around the campfire at the end to sing songs or tell stories.

Remember, if you do this activity while on a sleepover or camp it could count towards your My Outdoors Challenge Award.