Overview

Campfires are an appealing feature of many camping, motorized and non-motorized adventures. However, campfires can and do leave long lasting impacts.

Before having a campfire, ask yourself:

  • Are the conditions safe to have a fire?
  • Is a fire really needed?
  • Can I use a portable stove to cook my food?
  • Is there enough downed and dead wood?

Impact of careless campfire use

Many of the wildfires that the Government of Alberta puts out each summer are started by campfires. There were 2,913 wildfires started between 2004 and 2014.

These numbers not only impact you as a tax payer but also:

  • wildlife and their habitat
  • other public land users
  • the safety of Albertans
  • your future recreational opportunities

Responsible campfire use

If campfires are important to you and you do choose to have one while on public land, please follow these points below and be familiar with the legislative requirements in the Forest and Prairie Protection Act:

In accordance with the Forest and Prairie Protection Act, campfires are permitted within Public Land Use Zones (PLUZs) and Public Land Recreation Areas (PLRAs). However, some PLUZs allow fires only in designated camping areas. Refer to specific PLUZ information to ensure you are complying with the requirements of the area you are visiting. Open fires must be one km from the boundary of a PLRA or provincial park, while in some PLUZs, fires must be one km from a roadway.

  • If there is a campfire facility nearby, official or unofficial, use it.
  • If there are no facilities, select a site away from:
    • dry grass
    • heavy bush
    • leaves
    • logs
    • peaty areas
    • trees and overhanging branches
  • Clear the vegetation away.
  • Dig or scrape down to the mineral soil approximately one metre (3.28 feet) in diameter.
  • Put stones, gravel or sand around the pit to contain the embers.
  • Clear dry leaves, grass and twigs for one metre (3.28 feet) around the pit.
  • Use downed and dead wood as fuel for your fire.
    • Remember: you require a permit to cut live vegetation for firewood.
    • Where to buy a tree cutting permit provides further information.
    • Removal of vegetation in a PLRA is not permitted unless you have permission from Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) staff.
  • Use kindling or small branches to start your fire.
    • Never use lighter fluid or gasoline!
  • Keep your fire small.
  • Keep water nearby in case your fire gets out of control.
  • When leaving the site, ensure that your fire is completely out.
    1. Let the fire burn down.
    2. Once the fire has burned down, spread out the remains evenly within the pit and slowly add water or loose dirt (sand) and stir.
    3. Continue adding water or dirt until you can no longer see smoke or steam.
    4. The fire is out and it is safe to leave once you can put your hand over the remains and:
      • you feel no heat, or
      • you can touch the ashes

During high fire hazards, campfires may be banned or restricted in areas. Failure to comply with fire bans and/or the orders of Forest Officers can lead to serious enforcement actions.

Prevent your off-highway vehicles (OHV) from causing fires

Tips to follow

From the largest 4 x 4 to the smallest dirt bike, riding it off-road could start a costly wildfire. To prevent your OHV causing a fire, follow the easy tips found below.

  • Before you ride, ensure that there is no debris build up:
    • around the exhaust
    • in the engine and manifold
    • in the wheel wells
    • under the seat
  • Avoid muskeg at all times; if you can't avoid it, stop and remove any debris that may have built up:
    • around the exhaust
    • in the engine and manifold
    • in the wheel wells
    • under the seat
  • Always carry a small fire extinguisher and collapsible shovel to put out small fires.
  • Wash your OHV regularly at a commercial car wash or your home.
    • Do not wash your OHV in a stream, creek or lake.
  • Remember that you are required to have a spark arrester on your OHV.
    • Ensure that your spark arrester and muffler are in good working condition. Any alteration to the factory components can increase your chance of starting a wildfire and can lead to enforcement actions.

If you spot a wildfire or see an out-of-control fire call 310-FIRE (toll-free) anywhere in Alberta.

Remember that if you are found responsible for the start of a wildfire you may be charged under the Forest and Prairie Protection Act and be held responsible for the cost of extinguishing the fire.