Be Safe This Weekend: Check Camper Furnaces and Fully Extinguish Campfires

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As we enter camping season, campers are asked to keep themselves and the environment safe while enjoying the great outdoors.

Before heading out on a camping trip, those utilizing RVs and campers should make sure the furnace is in proper working order. This includes cleaning the furnace and looking to make sure animals haven’t moved in during the winter months.

With nights still cool, especially in high elevations, some people get creative in how to stay warm at night. For some who don’t have a working furnace, this can mean utilizing the camper’s stove or oven as a heat source. Sweetwater County Fire Warden Mike Bournazian says this is a common mistake that can be deadly.

“Carbon monoxide poisoning is real, and it is fatal. We have had those cases almost annually in the state of Wyoming where someone in a camper or an RV succumbs to carbon monoxide poisoning because the furnace was not operating properly,” said Bournazian.  “Or people will use their stove tops if the furnace isn’t working. They’ll leave the burners on to give off heat. The problem is that it also uses the oxygen within that confined area of an RV or a camper.”

While the area is generally wet and green during Memorial Day weekend, Bournazian says wildfires are still a concern.

“In reality, a campfire can hold heat for up to a week. You get a warm windy day where the grasses around that campfire dry out over that week’s time, and then we have a problem–those ashes blow out, and then we have a wildfire,” said Bournazian.

When it comes to campfires, planning ahead is the key. Bournazian advises campers to pack a bucket and a shovel when loading up for the big camping trip. Fires should be completely out and cool to the touch before they are left.

Below are some campfire safety tips:

  • Bring a shovel and plenty of water to make sure you can put your campfire out completely.
  • Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass and leaves.
  • Use an existing fire ring or rock ringed fire pit if available.
  • Clear all flammable material at least five feet away from all directions of the fire.
  • Building and maintaining campfires should always be done under adult supervision.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Use dry wood no bigger than the fire ring or pit.
  • Extinguish your campfire before you leave that location or call it a night.
  • To completely extinguish your campfire, pour water on the embers until the hissing and steaming stops. Then use a shovel to mix dirt and water with the ashes until what remains of your fire is cold to the touch of a bare hand.
  • Don’t cover the ashes with rocks to extinguish your fire.
  • Don’t head home until your fire is completely out.
  • If you discover an unattended fire, use 911 to report it and if possible do what you can to put it out.
  • Report suspicious smoke.