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Fire Safety with Cub Scouts

Campfires and Fire Safety

One of the things scouts love about camping is the campfires. Sitting around a fire, toasting marshmallows, and talking. I really enjoy a nice fire also. What I don’t enjoy is sounding like a broken record. “Stop poking the fire. Stop throwing stuff in the fire. What goes in the fire stays in the fire.”

Its not that I want to be a killjoy, but they like to put sticks in the fire until the ends are on fire and then pull them back out. Something else catches their attention, they turn, flaming stick in hand, not really paying attention to the danger factor. They also enjoy throwing things in the fire and poking the fire to get some sparks going. That’s not so much fun for the guy downwind of the sparks!

Review the Rules First

So I like to review some fire safety rules with Cub Scouts before the fire is built. That way they all know the expectations. Yes, they still poke the fire a little – they are 10 year old boys – but if I remind them and they continue to do it, then the consequence is that they need to move 5 feet further from the fire for a period of time.

In some books you will see recommendations to put a ring of rocks around the fire. We have a rule against rocks near the fire. Limestone is very common in our area. A limestone rock which has water trapped inside will explode if it gets hot enough. I have not seen this myself, but I have heard the stories from older Scouters who have seen it happen and it is not worth taking the chance. I can’t count on the Cub Scouts to be able to tell if a rock is limestone, so we just don’t put rocks in or near the fire.

These are my fire safety rules. Adjust them to meet your own needs.

Fire Safety Rules

  1. Follow the rules of your campsite. Some places do not allow ground fires. Ask if you don’t know the rules.
  2. Before building the fire, clear an area 10 feet in diameter. Remove leaves, sticks, and other burnable materials. Remove any rocks bigger than a fist.
  3. Don’t build a fire under a shrub or low hanging branches. Don’t build it on tree roots.
  4. Don’t light the fire until you have permission from an adult.
  5. Never leave the fire unattended.
  6. Don’t make the fire too big. A small fire is perfect for toasting marshmallows and sitting around talking.
  7. Stay at least three feet away from the fire unless you have to get closer to cook something.
  8. What goes in the fire, stays in the fire. Don’t put something in the fire and then take it back out. The end will be very hot and somebody could get burnt.
  9. Don’t poke the fire needlessly or throw things in the fire. This could cause sparks to fly out. Nobody wants sparks in their face.
  10. Have a means to extinguish a fire nearby. If some sparks fly off your fire and start another fire, you might have to act quickly. A shovel and a bucket of sand or a bucket of water  is ideal.
  11. Make sure the fire is dead out before you leave it. This means that you can put your hand where the fire was and not feel any heat. Use a shovel to disperse the ashes and coals and then sprinkle them with water until they are cool.

More Resources

The Science of Fire

If the Cub Scouts are just learning how to build fires, it will also be helpful for them to understand the elements required to get a fire started.

More Fire Safety Tips

This set of tips is more appropriate for older Scouts, but they are things to consider, especially if you are going camping.


3 responses to “Fire Safety with Cub Scouts”

  1. Rob Bartlett Avatar
    Rob Bartlett

    this is a great tutorial — we plan to use it in our troop in Houston Texas (an inner-city troop where we will be learning fire building at an urban park)

  2. Karl Shelton Avatar
    Karl Shelton

    You have a lot of great ideas here. I should point out that the “Age Appropriate Guidelines for Scouting Activities” limits fire building to Webelos (as you describe) and up. Therefore Tigers, Wolves and Bears should only observe.

  3. Fredric Avatar

    Thank you for posting this, I get my teeth grinding in frustration when I see photographs of people with unsafe fires getting posted to social media, with combustible fuels surrounding their fires. The basic fire safety rules of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts get taught to kids, yet looking at photos of adult fires on social media, I have some wish that basic fire safety gets taught before SOME adults can be trusted with matches in the forest.

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