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Sitting safely by a campfire

How can people enjoy campfires in the wild without damaging surroundings? Listen to the poem, then craft your own verses about fire-safety.

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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.

Read the poem 

Why not give this a go before starting to make a fire at camp? It could also be a great way to begin a campfire?

  1. Gather everyone together. Explain that you're going to learn about how to sit safely by a campfire.
  2. Together, read the poem aloud. You could choose different people to read different verses.

Searching for safety tips

  1. While they’re reading, everyone should note down a checklist of things to consider before making a fire in the wild. What should people do to prevent damage from poorly-managed campfires or accidental wildfires?
  2. Everyone should compare their lists. How many things did they identify? People could get a point for each tip they identified.
  3. The person leading the activity should help everyone talk through all of the safety tips.

Add your own

  1. Now, split everyone into small groups.
  2. Give each group a safety tip from the list.
  3. Each group should make up a rhyming pair of lines about their safety tip.
  4. Gather everyone back together and each group should share their tip.
  5. Everyone should piece the lines together to make a poem.
  6. Now, someone (or a group of people) should read your new poem.

Sitting by a campfire, keeps us warm and makes our tea.  

And sitting by the fire, this is where we like to be.

But in the hot, hot summer, when the ground is cracked and dry.

When building up our fires, there are things that we must try.


First to get permission, from whoever owns the land.

So we don’t make a fire where lighting fires is banned.

Next, we choose the place to lay our fire a bed.

Clear soil, no turf and leaves, to stop it should it spread.


Look above to check for any overhanging branch.

And spots where wildlife might stop to have their lunch.

It’s fine to change your mind, but remember be prepared.

Keep sand or water near, so there’s no need to be scared.


Now turn to our fuel, taking what we need only.

Keep it neat together, so it won’t get lonely.

Best wood is dead and dry, and all sorted out by size.

Take no wood that’s living, but find on the floor our prize.


Don’t load it up too high – that’ll spoil all of the fun.

Let it burn steady and stop when you are done.

When the evening’s ended, rake the ash into a pile.

To let the embers cool, you might have to wait awhile.


If you’re due to leave, then let the fire burn no more.

Cover it with soil, and on it water pour.

Replace the turf you took, and leave no trace behind,

Only thanks and memories, for passers-by to find.

Where to light your fire

  • Only light fires you’ll use. This saves time, effort, and fuel.
  • Ask permission from any landowners, including asking the people in charge of campsites.
  • Never light a fire in a ‘no fire zone’. Some areas are ‘no fire zones’, especially in dry summers where there could be serious risk to the countryside.

Clearing an area for your campfire

  • Clear an area around your fire to stop it from spreading through leaves, grass, trees, bushes or other debris. Keep away from properties and sheds, too.
  • Check for obstructions overhead, such as low-hanging branches, trees and cables
  • Keep clear of areas where birds are nesting or animals have made their homes. Don't forget to check for nests or animals in the campfire, such as hedgehogs.
  • Try to use existing campfire areas and hearths rather than starting new ones. If making a new campfire area, make a ring around the campfire out of stones, logs or heat-resistant bricks to contain the ash.
  • If you cut an area of turf out to create a hearth, water the turf regularly and replace it when you leave.

Choosing the right wood

  • Pick and burn only good, dry dead wood. Some sites will have a woodpile of approved material to burn.
  • Avoid using green wood, as it doesn’t usually burn very well and produces loads of smoke.
  • Avoid old rotten wood, especially willow, too. It won’t burn very well (because of all the moisture) and it’s usually home to all kinds of minibeasts.
  • Keep your fuel close by, but not so close that it might catch fire accidentally. Make sure it’s somewhere that people won’t trip over it.

Keeping the fire under control

  • To keep the fire under control, don’t burn logs that are thicker than your arm. You’ll have to wait ages (and go to bed very late) if you dump half a tree on.
  • Keep a safe method of extinguishing fire close by in case your fire starts to spread or grow out of control, such as a bucket of sand or water, a fire extinguisher or a fire beater.
  • Check the wind direction and speed as part of the planning and again before lighting.

Extinguishing the fire

  • Never leave a fire unattended and wait until it's fully extinguished. 
  • When you’re finished, leave the site as you found it (or better) by clearing up any litter and burying ashes under well-watered soil (to remove any heat still in them).
  • Never leave a pile of smoking ashes unattended.

Staying safe

  • Make sure young people have suitable and sufficient adult supervision.
  • Only responsible adults should handle and light campfires.
  • Stay a safe distance from the fire at all times.
  • Tie back long hair, and make sure loose clothing and jewellery are tucked in. 
  • If clothing catches fire, remember to stop, drop and roll.
  • Have trained first aiders and appropriate first kits ready.

Reporting accidental or wild fires

  • There are a number of ways accidental fires can start in the wilderness, such as lightning, fallen cables and even litter.
  • If you see a fire without anyone supervising it, call 999 immediately.


This activity helped everyone to value the outdoors. Spending time around a fire, cooking tasty food, and sharing songs and stories is a real privilege.

Fire was discovered over 1.5 million years ago; it’s an amazing tool, but it’s important to stay safe. How did people a million years ago learn how to be safe with fire?

Why's it important to be so careful with fire in the countryside? Even though there may not be any buildings, nature’s in fine balance – being careless can cause serious damage.

This activity also gave people the chance to be a citizen. Who is responsible for helping to make sure a fire is safe? It's everyone's, as everyone taking part should know how to keep a fire safe and what to do if things go wrong. They should work together and always speak up if they’ve got any concerns, such as by telling the responsible adult.

What should people do if they see an unattended fire? They should call 999 straight away.


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.

Break down the information in different ways – for example, you could show people the printed poem, draw the tips and poem, or practise making a campfire.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Encourage young people to help each other and take the lead when it comes to safety. It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep a campfire safe, so everyone needs to know what to do (and what to do if something goes wrong).