One of the best things about camping during the cooler months is the ability to have a campfire.
The bush TV is a great gathering point for stories, cooking and marshmallow work but safety is paramount and seasonal and regional restrictions apply all around Australia so the first thing to do is familiarise yourself with the fire season in your area or the area in which you are intending to go camping.
Fire services or rangers will happily provide you with guidance however it is very important to remember that fire can get out of hand very easily given the right circumstances so if in any doubt at all it is best to avoid a fire.
OK, so you have established that you are camping in a season where cooking fires are allowed and you are ready to set up your camp fire.
The first thing to do is define your cooking area by clearly defining the limits, in a lot of national parks you will have access to a fire ring complete with swing over hot plate and billy holder.
Always use these where they are provided as they prevent wider scarring of the landscape.
If you are in an area where fires are permitted but there are no fire rings delineate an area with rocks as this will give you somewhere to rest any implements you may be using and help keep smaller children away from the coals and flames but close enough to toast marshmallows which, as we all know, is the greatest excuse for having a fire.
Clear an area around your fire ring to a diameter of five metres of any flammable materials including leaves and branches.
Fire lighting…everyone has a favourite technique but generally there are two basic methods; the tepee or the house.
The house uses two larger pieces of wood as side ‘walls with paper balled in between and the kindling placed over the top.
The tepee (as the name suggests) is conical in shape with balled paper in the middle and kindling around the outside with progressively larger pieces layered around that.
Always try to use supplied wood or carry dried wood with you for fires, fallen timber and bush wood is habitat and plays an important role in preventing erosion on slopes.
Extinguishing; use water or, if you don’t have any water, sand to smother a fire before you leave your campsite, ensure it is out and no embers can be blown after you leave.
If you have gathered rocks to make a fire ring put them back where you found them or distribute them in the bush. And if you made a fire outside a fire ring spread the ashes and leave the area as you found it – without evidence of your fire.