Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve

The Anatomy of a Campfire


Not all campfires are alike. First and foremost, always consider safety before arranging and lighting a fire. According to the latest study from 2011, someone is injured every 30 minutes by fire.

It’s winter season, and for many, that means ample opportunity to build a bonfire in the back yard or at a campsite, such as Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve.

At Magnolia Branch, most campsites have a fire ring area where campers can keep warm, roast marshmallows and even cook over an open fire. Be sure to check with management at the campground if you are bringing your own firewood and tinder. There are plenty of twigs, pine cones and sticks around the park to use as kindling, but be sure to put out your fire safely as well.

"Never build a fire you can’t control,” General Manager of Magnolia Branch Billy Smith said. "Always remember that the unexpected can happen and that fires can spread very rapidly. Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of emergencies.”

Before getting started, survey your surroundings. Make sure your tent, clothing or anything else that can cause a wildfire isn’t close to the open flames. Then decide what type of fire you want.

A campfire is generally a small controlled fire used for warmth, cooking or keeping insects away. But a bonfire is much bigger. Bonfires usually have much bigger flames and are used a lot for larger gatherings or celebrations. They can also be used for cooking — hot dogs and s’mores come to mind. Also be sure to ask campground management if bonfires are allowed.

Next, gather your materials and assemble your site. There are a plethora of ways to do this, but the three most common arrangements are teepee, log cabin and lean to styles. It’s all in how you prefer to place the firewood or logs.

A few other safety tips for enjoying a good campfire: never leave a fire unattended. You want to be in control at all times. Watch children around the fire, and when putting out fires, allow the wood to burn completely to ash if possible. Do not just bury the fire, as it can smolder and restart.