Is there anything better than a campfire at the end of a long hut trip or when meeting friends at a nearby river or lake? A warming campfire is also definitely part of a successful microadventure. However, in order to protect yourself and your environment, it is essential that you follow these rules when making a fire.
When and where is fire allowed?
The legal situation for making fires is inconsistent and varies from country to country, respectively. The regulations vary from state to state – similar to wild camping in Germany and Europe.
Regulations for open fires in Germany
In Germany, the landscape law regulates the legal situation for making a fire for each federal state individually. Especially open fires in nature are a source of danger that should not be underestimated. Since carelessly lit campfires in dry soils and forests in Germany are often the source of forest fires, you should always inform yourself in advance about the current safety situation in your state and municipality.
A campfire simply belongs to it from time to time. For this you do not even need a lighter or matches.
Generally prohibited is the making of fire in the following areas (Attention: In case of violation a severe punishment can threaten!):
- Nature reserves
- national parks and nature reserves
- foreign front gardens and within sight of streets or houses
- Hunting regions
- on public places or on agriculturally used areas
In addition, the following regulations apply:
- Keep a minimum distance of 100 meters from the edge of the forest for campfires or barbecues (This also applies to torches and camping stoves, by the way).
- Firing in the forest is only allowed with the written permission of the responsible forestry authority.
- The smoke must not be disturbing or even harmful to any neighbors.
- Use only approved material. This includes, for example, dry and unpainted wood or wood briquettes.
- On private property you may light a fire with the consent of the owner – this also applies to rented apartments and properties. If necessary, note special regulations in your rental contract and in the house rules.
- Campfires in your own garden: In principle, making fires and barbecues on your own property is allowed. Here, too, the protection of neighbors and the regulations on air pollution control must be observed. To this applies: Inform yourself with your municipality, which regulations apply to the open fire in the garden up-to-date.
Making fire in Switzerland and Austria
The legal situation with regard to open fires is also somewhat inconsistent in Switzerland and Austria and must be checked depending on the current situation. In Switzerland, there is no federal law that would generally prohibit fireplaces, and in Austria, campfires and barbecues are generally allowed. However, comparable to Germany, there are bans on lighting fires in nature reserves and zones. Therefore, keep to the regulations of your federal state, your canton or your municipality. Here, too, the applicable regulations often depend on the current weather conditions.
Link tips for Switzerland:
- About the current forest fire danger in Switzerland you can inform yourself here: Forest fire danger Switzerland
- The family magazine "Schweizer Familie" has on its website an Overview with official fireplaces in Switzerland compiled. Here you can also find further information, such as accessibility and pictures of the fireplace: Swiss fireplaces
Link tips for Austria:
- Generally valid regulations for Austria such as on the permitted combustibles or on fireplaces in the forest can be found in the legal text of the Federal Air Pollution Control Act and on the website of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism: To the Federal Air Pollution Control Act and the information page of the BM
- For Austria, the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics continuously provides information about the current danger of forest fires available: To the information page of the ZAMG
In front of huts, at lakes and rivers or in cities you will often find permanent barbecue areas or fireplaces. Campfires are allowed here, of course! These places also have the advantage that they are safe and you can often find them easily by searching the Internet and typing "barbecue places".
How to make a fire properly
To start a campfire quickly and skillfully is not so easy at the beginning. With the following tips and the right know-how, it will certainly work with a little practice.
The choice of the fireplace
Make sure that within a radius of at least three meters There is no combustible material (even on the top). The ground should be relatively firm, so that the fire does not sink in and could cause a root fire. Also, it is never wrong to build a perimeter of earth or stones around the fire. This can also be useful if you use a fire bowl.
Tinder, kindling and fuel are best gathered in advance, so that the fire does not go out again in between. As tinder are very easily combustible materials such as dry needles, leaves, thistles or even thin wood chips suitable. Spruce twigs are best for lighting the fire – if they are not available in the area, use other thin branches. To keep the fire going for a long period of time, you will need twigs and branches of various thicknesses. When choosing the right wood for your fire, it is especially important that it dry is.
Apart from the choice of the suitable fuel material above all the correct structure of the campfire helps you to success: As the lowest layer you pile up what you have collected as tinder. Around this pile you build a pyramid out of thin branches and other wood – thin branches go inside, thicker ones outside. Leave a hole on one side, here you light the fire in the next step.
At this point, your lighter, matches or even fire steel comes into play. fire steel has the advantage that it always works, lighter and matches are easier to use. Shield the fire well from the wind and hold the lighter as close as possible to the tinder. As soon as the material has caught fire, blow slowly and evenly from below into the pyramid – not directly into the flames, but into the embers! Now keep the fire going and make sure that the thicker branches are also burning. Place more wood around the fire – do not wait too long, so that it does not go out again.
Size of the fire
Don’t keep your fire too big, so that it doesn’t get out of control, but also not too small, so that it doesn’t go out. With time you will get the right feeling for it.
Tips for making fire without a lighter
The campfire is already layered, the anticipation of the barbecue or the warming coffee in the early morning hours rises and then this: The matches lie at home. With a few tricks you can still get your fire going without the usual tools such as a lighter or matches.
Making fire also goes (almost) without tools.
Start a fire with a burning glass
This method requires the sun to shine, but then it works without problems: You hold a burning glass (this can be a magnifying glass or the bottom of a glass bottle) in the light so that the bundled light beam is directed onto the pile of tinder. Already after a short time the material starts to burn.
To literally start a fire, you need fire steel or flints. However, you usually have to bring both with you. Alternatively, you can try to strike a knife blade on a normal stone, as this can also cause sparks. This method is facilitated if you have a piece of dry or charred (tree) wool with you. This easily absorbs sparks and the sparks are not lost again immediately.
Make fire with a battery and steel wool/aluminum
Even though it’s relatively unlikely that you’ll have a (preferably 9 volt) battery and steel wool with you on tour if you forget your lighter, we still want to introduce you to this variant: You need a battery and preferably steel wool or even a piece of aluminum. Now hold the steel wool or the aluminum strip to both poles of the battery. When the aluminum starts to burn, hold it to the tinder until the fire is lit.
Make fire in windy conditions
The first rule is: If the wind is very strong or if there is an official weather warning, do not light a fire! It is normal that a light breeze blows, and it is the rule except in particularly wind-protected places.
check the wind direction before lighting the fire. In this way, there are no unexpected flying sparks and you know from which direction you have to light the fire so that it does not go out again immediately. Sit in front of the fireplace so that it is shielded from the wind and light the fire from the windward side – this gives the fire the fresh air it needs to spread. Tip: birch bark is a suitable burning material in moderate wind, because it burns well and is not so quickly extinguished by the wind.
Making fire in the rain
With a little practice you can make a fire even in the rain. Note, however, that the use of wet wood can produce a lot of smoke or fumes.
If you light a fire with wet wood, you must expect a lot of smoke development.
It is important that your tinder and fire material are dry when making a fire in the rain. You need the dry material to start a basic fire – once it’s burning, even prolonged rain doesn’t bother the fire anymore. If you cannot find thin, dry branches, you can split a thicker piece of wood and use the dry splinters. If spruce trees are growing in your area, you will often find dry spruce branches in the lower levels, as the trees become very dense towards the top.
Extinguish fire correctly
Before leaving the campsite, make sure the fire is either burned down or completely extinguished. Otherwise, there is a risk that the fire will be reignited unintentionally, for example, by wind. It is best to smother the fire with sand or water if it is still smoldering or smoking. This also applies if you have lit the fire in a fire bowl, as sparks can also jump out here.
Tips for making a fire with children
Campfire with children? With some rules a great adventure!
Especially for children a trip into the countryside with a campfire is pure adventure feeling! Of course, most children want to join in directly. It is difficult to give a general age at which a child may light a fire, as much depends on the individual maturity and temperament of the child. If you observe a few basic points together, however, there is basically nothing to be said against a relaxed evening at the campfire with family:
- Regardless of age, every child can help collect dry leaves and branches – after all, there’s no fire without fuel.
- The sun is shining? Wonderful – together you can also leave the lighter aside and try to light the fire with the help of a magnifying glass (see "Starting a fire with a burning glass" above).
- Synthetic fibers such as polyester or fleece burn more easily than cotton: Easily flammable textiles have no place at the fireplace and therefore also on the body of your children – at least as long as you build a fire together!
- Establish rules: Only stand or sit by the fire – running and playing are prohibited!
- It also makes sense to build a border of earth or stones around the fire. This way the kids know how close they can get to the fire.
- Bring your favorite recipes for stick bread& Co. with, an outdoor day in nature makes quite hungry.
Food freshly prepared at or on the campfire tastes best.
To get a campfire going, it takes some routine. But once you’ve tried it a few times, you’ll know what to look for to keep the fire burning properly, but also in a controlled manner. As beautiful as campfires are – please inform yourself in advance about the current regulations, so that you do not cause any unwanted damage. Also, as always, when you’re out and about, leave the place as you found it. Then others can use it too and you spare the nature.