You can help protect the forest from wildfires by knowing and following rules for the safe use of fire. You must obtain a California Campfire Permit if you plan to build a campfire, use a barbecue or use a stove, unless you are in a developed recreation area (campground or picnic area).
Permits are available free of charge at offices of the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) or by visiting https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prevent-wildfire/campfire-safety/.
Remember that regulations governing campfires are specific to each National Forest and change with weather conditions and the seasons. You are responsible to know the current restrictions for the area you are visiting.
Campfire Permit FAQs
How much do they cost? - California Campfire Permits are free.
Where can I obtain a permit? - Any Forest Service office, CAL FIRE office, or Bureau of Land Management office, and online at https://www.readyforwildfire.org/prevent-wildfire/campfire-safety/.
How long is the permit good for? - Your campfire permit is valid from the date issued until the end of the calendar year (December 31st).
Where can I use it? - The permit may be used in most National Forests in California and on Bureau of Land Management land. For National Forests in Southern California, please call the individual forest for local information and regulations.
When you obtain a Campfire Permit you agree to:
- Clear all flammable material away from the fire for a minimum of five feet in all directions to prevent escape of the fire. Meadows make poor campsite locations as you will destroy sections of the meadow with the campfire and the clearance.
- Have a shovel and ample water available at the campfire site for preparing and extinguishing campfires.
- Have a responsible person in attendance at all times. Leave the permit with that person and make sure they are aware of the terms of the permit.
- Extinguish the campfire with water every night when going to bed and when breaking camp or leaving for any period of time.
How to Safely Build a Campfire
Prepare Your Site - Find a level spot away from overhanging branches, brush, or dry grass. Keep away from the base of a hill. Escaped fires travel uphill fast. With a shovel, clear a circle 10 feet wide down to bare dirt. Hollow out a fire pit 6 inches deep and 2 feet across at the center of the cleared circle. Pile the dirt around the fire pit. Keep your fire small. Use existing fire rings where available to reduce the number of disturbed areas and damage to soil cover and vegetation.
Beware of the Duff - Duff is the layer of decomposing wood material that lies on the forest floor between pine needles and bare dirt. Many times it may look like dirt, but it isn't. Duff burns, dirt doesn't. It allows even the smallest ember to smolder for days, most times underground and unnoticed, until enough heat is built up to produce flames. Don't let the duff fool you.
Attend to Your Fire - Never leave your campfire unattended, even for a few minutes or if you take a nap.
Drown the Fire - Drown your campfire 1/2 hour before you break camp. Use your shovel to separate the burning pieces of wood in the fire pit.
Stir and Mix - Stir and mix water with the ashes until the fire is out. Don't try to bury the fire under dirt, it can smolder for hours and then escape.
Drown Briquettes - Charcoal briquettes should be extinguished by dumping into a pail of water, mixing thoroughly, and then place into the fire pit.
Feel the Ashes - Feel the ashes to be sure the fire is out. Before you leave the campsite, check the area within 50 feet of the fire for sparks or embers that may have escaped.
It Can Cost You - You will be held liable for the cost of suppression and damages caused by any wildfire that starts through negligence on your part.
Come Prepared - Obtain your campfire permit, bring your shovel, and a pail for water. In areas where there is not a source for water, you must carry in extra water if you plan to have a campfire.