Well, wildfires have been the talk of the town here in SoCal lately, and rightly so. Both sun and moon have been an orangeish-red for weeks and we've had our WORST air quality in 30 years!
At first, the forests (we have 18 of them around here) we're ALL closed due to fire and fire risk. Then they kept extending the closures a day or two at a time. Then nearly a week to the 21st, and now the Angeles National Forest (which I pass through) until the 24th. FOR NOW!
Sadly, the San Gabriel Wilderness (a favorite nearby stomping ground) was devastated and the area will probably be closed for the next two or three years. When it reopens, it will be a charred and scarred landscape for years more like other areas I've seen.
But I'm going so STIR-CRAZY from not being allowed back in, so I'm thinking of risking a fine to trek out to Vazquez Rocks. That's away from the Bobcat Fire area, so I may be alright. In the meantime...
1- READ and HEED any/all fire warnings, advisories and restrictions both online (on the area's website) and posted at the campground! It's simple, if fire is not allowed, DON'T MAKE A FIRE!! - NEVER use fireworks in the wilderness!!! (that's just STUPID!!!!)
2- If fire is allowed, use the fire pit/ring/box that was provided! Do NOT dig a fire pit wherever you d**n well please! (Digging, camping and hiking where you're not supposed to (including "shortcuts" at switchbacks) just tears up the land).
3- If you set a camp fire, KEEP IT CONTROLLABLE! However big you make it, you should be able to control it or put it out completely if necessary (this means having enough water, or dirt and a shovel, nearby to douse it).
4- In those situations where you do make your own fire pit, adhere to [the following] "leave no trace" guidelines:
5- Try to choose a location that is protected from wind and is away from combustible debris and overhangs (If necessary, do some LIGHT clearing, the point being, to have a situation that is controllable and won't get away from you with a gust of wind).
6- Dig your pit to a reasonable depth and size, smaller is better! (Fankly, I typically don't make a campfire, even for cooking, it's NOT necessary, especially when the moon is out. If I do, it's a small pit, about 1 or 2 feet across at most for cooking, in the morning and evening, with just a handful of tinder and kindling from the leaf litter. You don't need a lot of wood or big wood!).
7- Be sure to scrape your pit down to the dirt, beneath the mulch AND roots! (First I push any dry leaves away from the pit and I continue to push that ring away as I work. Then I scrape the mulch out of the pit and away for at least 3 to 6 feet, pushing the dry leaf ring outward as I go. If I find any smallish roots, I'll dig those out, but I won't dig out any others).
8- Build the ring up with stones, but dirt will do. (This helps keep the wind out, but also helps keep your digging to a minimum).
9- The cleared ring around your pit is you work area, keep it clear! (Children, pets and extra firewood should be kept OUT of this circle!)
10- NEVER leave a fire, including smoldering embers, unattended! (That INCLUDES when you go to sleep!! Sleeping IS leaving it unattended!!!).
11- When you're done, DOUSE IT! (Use plenty of water! Only if you can handle the remains with your bare hands should you consider the fire completely out!!).
12- Leave it like you found it. (Once you're sure the fire is completely out, remove the rocks, replace the mulch, and finish spreading the dry leaf ring over your campfire area. The place should look like you were never there).
These days many of us reject traditional campfires, preferring one of the many light, reasonably priced, highly efficient camp stoves (my fave is the Pocket Rocket) that are on the market. Not completely foolproof, they are infinitely safer than the usual campfire.
Yet building a fire, using found materials remains an essential skill. Ambient conditions may range from tinder dry (don't even think about a fire!) to cold and wet (a fire is absolutely necessary if you will witness another sunrise) and achieving a decent fire will require skill, experience, and a certain amount of luck.
Canister stoves are not completely foolproof, and malfunctions may require you to revert to a traditional campfire (been there, done that),but barring that issue, relax and enjoy the efficiency of your modern stove.
Sometimes even those stoves may be barred; then it is time to go scuba diving.....
WELL DONE, I couldn't agree more! Yep, right now (with all the wildfires lately), not even STOVES are allowed (that's saying something!) which caused me to repack my food choices. In fact, I was considering paddling around Catalina Island (they have several rustic, "pack-your-poop-out", water access only, campsites).
The only people I see making bonfires on a regular basis (typically in the frontcountry) are the NOOBS! You know, beginners, car campers, overnighters, tenderfeet, "cityots"... you get my meaning.
My preferred method is my faithful microstove (never failed me yet!!!), then my hobo stove set up, then a SMALL cook fire. With both my hobo stove and my cook fire, I never need more than a few handfuls of tinder/kindling. As I mentioned, instead of a camp/bon fire, I much prefer to let the moon light the landscape!
But I get it, a lot of people don't consider it "camping" unless they have a fire, even if it's a smallish fire. And I admit I occasionally like roasting some small game/fish over an open fire.
My problem is with the noobs who start fires with flames taller than they are! Even if it's for "entertainment" purposes, I don't like seeing campfires taller than your knees. Not because of any personal preference, but because it's a good bet they aren't very careful.
Many times, they don't even douse before they leave. I even heard one genius TELL someone in his group NOT to douse! (he just liked the idea of "letting the [embers] die out"). I even heard one of our recent wildfires was cause by FIREWORKS! (at a 'gender reveal' party!!). What can I say, but, CALIFORNIA!