Gather ‘round the campfire — safely

June 29, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Pitch a tent, stoke a fire, and ditch the electronics. Camping as a family is a great way to disconnect with the world and reconnect as a family.

Of course, with all that wilderness out there to be discovered, it’s important to heed some camping precautions, particularly related to food, fire and wildlife.

On the food front

Check with the campground where you’re staying to determine if bears are an issue. Some campgrounds require bear-proof food containers, while others have lockers to store food. Generally, campgrounds caution you to dispose of waste properly. And remember: Food in the tent is never a good idea. Even a squirrel that chews through the tent will ruin any good camping experience.

Prepare healthy and safe food using the following tips:

  • Pack foods in tight, waterproof bags or containers. Keep them in an insulated cooler.
  • Wash hands and surfaces often. Use hand sanitizer if water is not available.
  • Separate raw foods from cooked foods.
  • Cook foods to proper temperatures. (Link to website with proper temperatures.)
  • Chill foods promptly.

For more tips on food preparation for camping, visit

Campfire safety

Several years ago during a camping trip, my then 5-year-old son reached for a hotdog skewer to roast some marshmallows. The problem was, it had been resting near the campfire for some time. The burns on his hand eventually healed, but the memory of a long night swapping out chilled water bottles from the cooler for him to clutch as he whimpered in the tent is seared in memory forever.

Before you build a campfire, review fire safety rules with all of your campers.

If you build a campfire, do it safely.

  • Build or use a campfire pit away from overhanging tree branches.
  • Make sure it has a metal fire ring or is encircled with rocks.
  • Keep a bucket of water and shovel nearby in case sand or dirt is needed to douse the fire.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended and be sure to put out your campfire completely before you leave.
  • Use fireproof cooking equipment.

Generally, minor burns smaller than a person’s palm can be treated at home. Run cool water over it and cover it with a clean, dry cloth. Don’t use ice, which can worsen a burn. Do not apply petroleum jelly or butter, which can hold heat in skin tissue and worsen a burn.

Consult your family doctor if a minor burn does not heal in a couple of days or if there are signs of infection, such as redness and swelling.

For severe burns, seek immediate medical attention.

For more campfire safety tips, visit online at

Do not feed the animals

Some wild animals carry diseases that are dangerous to people, such as rabies, hantavirus, Giardia infection, and more. It’s fine to enjoy watching them from a safe distance in their natural surroundings, but all campers should avoid touching, feeding and getting near wild animals.

Avoid attracting wild animals to your campsite by storing food in sealed containers and out of the reach of animals.

If you bring family pets camping with you, be sure they are vaccinated before you leave. Check for ticks and remove promptly. In addition, be sure your pet has plenty of food, water and shelter while camping.

For more on precautions to take while camping, see

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