How to make Bonfires – In part two of this two part series on outdoor fires, we will be discussing everyone’s favorite beach party addition – bonfires. Read on for helpful tips on building successful and safe bonfires.
Not your regular Bonfire Pit
Bonfires are a fun and exciting addition to beach parties and other gatherings, but make no mistake – they are dangerous! Truly, bonfires are built in the same way as described in part one of this series, when we discussed campfires and wood burning firepits, – just supersized! This means that your safety measures should be supersized as well. First and foremost is checking you’re your local fire department to ensure that you are even allowed to build a bonfire. There are often restrictions and safety measures that are required by law for you to follow.
Once you’ve cleared your bonfire with the authorities, find a safe place to build it. 50’ from any buildings or trees, etc. is recommended, at the very least. Additionally, note the wind conditions. Sparks from bonfires can be blown farther than you might think and can easily start unwanted fires that can get out of your control. If it’s very windy, a bonfire is not recommended. If the wind is moderate, consider naming a few individuals to help you keep an eye on the perimeter of your area, watching for any far flying embers. Better to be safe than sorry.
Building Bonfires Safely
While you can build a teepee style bonfire, many people prefer the stability of a pyramid or upside down fire, similar to one that might be built in a fireplace or woodstove. These fires take a little longer to rage, but they burn for much longer and with much more stability than a standard teepee fire.
To build this type of bonfire you first need to place 2 large logs on the ground to serve as a base and to keep airflow moving underneath your fire. On top of those you will stack your fuel wood in a crisscross pattern, gradually decreasing the size of your wood as you move towards the top. Keep some space in between them for good air circulation. On top of your crisscrossed firewood, you’ll stack some tinder, topped with 1 additional log and some kindling leaning up against it (this is called a lean-to fire). Light the kindling of your lean-to fire and watch as your bonfire slowly lights from the top down. Again, keep in mind that this type of bonfire does take longer to get going, but once it does you won’t have to feed it often or at all. Additionally, its stable stacking shape will keep everyone safe from toppling bonfires.
Putting out and cleaning up your bonfire is almost as important as building a safe one in the first place. Hot coals can burn under sand for hours making a potentially dangerous situation for anyone to come after you on the beach, or wherever you chose to hold your bonfire. Much like in the first part of this series, you will need to spend a lot of time carefully putting out your fire and then making sure no burning ashes or embers remain.
Of course, it’s harder to stir bonfire remnants, so start out by pouring water on your fire, embers and coals. A LOT of water. Unlike putting out a campfire, where drenching the ground isn’t always recommended, totally dousing a bonfire is absolutely the way to go. When you think you’ve used enough water, use more. When it looks like nothing is left burning, use a shovel to turn over the ashes and charcoal, then add more water. Continue this process of pouring water and turning coals and ashes until you feel no heat and see no steam or evidence of flame.