Since the dawn of time, we have used fire. For warmth, cooking and, controlling vegetation and even as a weapon in times of conflict. In fact, we grew up with fire even in modern times and as such we have strong associations with it. The smell, the crackle of wood and the flickering glow is entrancing as are the final moments as the embers glow. Who has not cooked over coals or sat in the bush with a heap of coals under the campstool?
Lately, due to the devastation caused by rogue fires, campfires have been banned and provision has been made for gas braais or designated braai areas. Fires have also been banned in areas as the collection of firewood denudes habitats for small eco-systems. Nowadays should you be planning to make a fire you should carry in your own wood and charcoal and even be prepared to be self-sufficient if your overnight stop does not allow fires. Rather carry wood in and don’t than rely on wood from the area, even if it is abundant it has a role to play in the eco-system. Use existing fireplaces as opposed to simply making another one.
If you have to start a new fireplace site your fire carefully to minimise any after effects, sandy soil is the easiest place to dig a fire pit and leave no trace afterwards. Gravel and soft soil are also suitable options. Avoid areas where the fire will damage vegetation, light the fire in the pit and contain it there.
When finished make sure the fire is dead and completely cold, clean out any debris (foil, cans, bottle-tops, etc.), remove the dead coals and ash and scatter them around in a wide area, then restore the site to it’s original condition and full marks if you can leave it looking totally undisturbed . Fire marks on rocks are unnecessary and unsightly and should not be encouraged, rather put a sand bed down on the rocks to avoid fire scarring- remember that it is dangerous to build a fire on porous rocks as they may contain water which could swell and even cause the rocks to explode.
Good landowners have generally provided fire areas which are safe, easy to clean and cause a minimal environmental impact. A simple bricked ring works well in most cases, one can even look at a portable fire pit which you can take with you- it’s important that you cross the terrain and leave no trace of your passage. Send us your tips at www.allterrain.co.za
An increasingly popular alternative that leaves almost no trace is a portable fire-pit. They require far less timber and with minimal effort, you can leave barely a trace. It’s a piece of gear to consider carrying if you regularly camp in popular or sensitive places!