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camp fires and fire restrictions

see also:

  • FIRE DANGER PERIOD restrictions apply
    • in Victoria, open air camp fires MUST NOT be lit in windy conditions when wind is more than 10kph during a FIRE DANGER PERIOD which may be declared from Oct-Apr 1)
    • in Sth Aust:
      • NO fires, including barbecues and campfires, are permitted in FOREST RESERVES between November 30 to April 30 each year. However, gas barbecues may be permitted in designated areas in Mount Lofty Ranges forest under certain conditions.2)
      • in Sth Aust, in NATIONAL PARKS, signs are placed at the park entrance when fires are permitted, but they can only be lit in designated areas. Many National Parks and Wildlife Reserves have total bans on the use of wood fires.
  • see also:
  • in addition, local municipalities (councils or shires) may have their own local laws in relation to lighting fires
  • some National Parks ban solid fuel stoves or fires:
  • NO FIRE is permitted on TOTAL FIRE BAN DAYS (some gas/electric stoves may be exempted for food preparation) without a permit
  • Some local councils may have their own bans on fires which may extend all year around
    • eg. many in metropolitan areas, Bass coast

Fire Danger Regions in Victoria

  • camping in Victoria with camp fires for week of Nov 20th 2023
    • Fire Danger Periods are in place for most of Victoria EXCEPT (and most of these will come into force as of 27th Nov 2023):
      • North-East Victoria:
        • Mitchell (north parts of Mt Dissapointment, Tallarook, Seymour region)
        • Murrindindi (W of Lake Eildon shore, Cathedral Ranges, Marysville, Toolangi, Yea, Kinglake, Flowerdale)
        • Strathbogie (E of Heathcote to Nagambie, Avenel to Violet Town on the Hume, Strathbogie ranges)
        • Mansfield (Howqua hills, Sheepyard flats, Jamieson, Woods Point, east of the western shoreline of Lake Eildon, Bonnie Doon, southern part Mt Samaria, west of Mt Howitt except Mts Buller/Stirling)
        • Benalla (north part of Mt Samaria; Tatong, Winton, Thoona)
        • Greater Shepparton
        • Wangaratta NW (Warby Ranges) and SE (incl. Mt Cobbler, King Valley, Eldorado)
        • NE Murray River regions: Moira (Yarrawonga to Barmah); Indigo (Yackandah, Beechworth, Corowa but not Wodonga or Eldorado); Wodonga region; Towong (Mitta Mitta, Tallangatta)
        • Alpine (incl. Myrtleford, Bright, Mt Beauty but excl. Mt Hotham, Falls Ck), Falls Ck; Mt Hotham;
        • Mt Buller, Stirling
        • Baw Baw (but all year ban on solid fuels)
      • some parts of Gippsland:
        • Mornington Peninsula
        • Yarra Ranges (Warburton, Upper Yarra)
        • Bass coast (Phillip Island to Inverloch)
        • South Gippsland (east of Inverloch to Port Welshpool and Mirboo Nth) NB. solid fuels NOT permitted any time of year in Wilsons Prom
        • Latrobe (Morwell region sth to Boolarra and Mt Tassie)
  • other areas are in Fire Danger Periods must follow the restrictions:
    • North and North-Western Victoria:
      • Mount Alexander (Maldon, Castlemaine, Glenluce)
      • Central Goldfields (Tabot, Maryborough, Dunolly, Tullaroop)
      • Campaspe (E of Elmore, Aysons, Corop, Rushworth, Whroo, Rochester, Kyabram, Echuca, Gunbower)
      • Loddon (Newbridge, Waanyarra, Terrick Terrick, Melville Caves)
      • Greater Bendigo (north of Bendigo, Heathcote, west of Campaspe)
      • Gannawarra (Kerang, Quambatook, west part of Gunbower, Cohuna)
      • Buloke South (Charlton, Wycheproof, Birchip)
      • Buloke North (N of Birchip to Sea Lake)
      • Swan Hill
      • Yarriambiack North (Little Desert)
      • Yarriambiack Central
      • Yarriambiack South
      • Hindmarsh north (Wyperfeld, Big Desert) and south (Little Desert, Dimboola, Nhill, Jeparit, Lake Hindmarsh)
      • West Wimmera north (Little Desert), central east
      • Mildura
    • Western Victoria:
      • Hepburn (Mt Beckworth, Clunes, Creswick, Daylesford, Trentham)
      • Moorabool (Lerderderg, Blackwood, northern part Brisbane Ranges, Lal Lal)
      • Ballarat (Buninyong to Waubra)
      • Golden Plains (Linton,
      • Pyrenees North (Avoca, Pyrenees, Mt Buangor)
      • Pyrenees South (NW of Skipton almost to Streatham)
      • Ararat North (W of Grampians, Ararat, Langhi Giran Mt Cole, )
      • Ararat South (Streatham almost Glenthompson and to west of southern part of Grampians, incl. Lake Bolac but excludes Dunkeld)
      • Northern Grampians (east of Avoca River, St Arnaud, Stawell, Kara Kara, Stuart Mill, most of the Grampians incl. Halls Gap )
      • Southern Grampians North (Black Range),Central (Victoria Valley and southern Grampians), South (Dunkeld)
      • Horsham North (Horsham, Mt Arapiles)
      • Horsham South (Black Range, areas north of Glenelg River)
    • South-West Victoria:
      • Wyndham (Werribee, Little River)
      • Greater Geelong (Meredith, Brisbane Ranges, You Yangs, most of Bellarine Peninsula except Queenscliffe coast)
      • Queenscliffe
      • Surf Coast (Lorne)
      • Colac Otway (Cressy south through Colac to Johanna, Cape Otway, Apollo Bay, Wye River)
      • Corangamite (Lismore, Camperdown, Terang, Princetown, Port Campbell, Peterborough)
      • Moyne (Mortlake, Allansford, Mt Eccles)
      • Warrnambool (Bay of Islands west to Warrnambool and Belfast coastal reserve;)
      • Glenelg (Tyrendarra to Sth Aust incl. Portland)
    • Gippsland:
      • Wellington (Dargo, Sale, Maffra, Golden Beach)
      • East Gippsland (East of Mt Hotham; Mitchell River, Loch Sport and east to Mallacoota)


  • camping with an open fire is a traditional activity that harks back to the days of cave dwellers as an essential survival technique and perhaps that is why so many are attracted to the ambience and the social gathering aspects as well as just chilling out in front of the warmth while you watch the Milky Way
  • from April to Sept, the nights are long and cold in the southern states, by early April after Daylight Savings has ended, the sun sets around 6pm and this gets earlier as the days progress - a wood fire becomes an important source of warmth and light to those who wish to stay up and socialise
  • as much as it is loved, it can be problematic and dangerous
  • if there are no fire pits, please respect the environment and do not create new ones unless in an emergency
    • there are ways to reduce fire scars such as portable, elevated fire pits but even these can kill nearby vegetation
  • unattended camp fires are a significant cause of bushfires which can have devastating widespread impacts

So you plan on going camping and having a camp fire - well be prepared!

  • you MUST understand in detail the local laws and regulations regarding camp fires
  • you MUST bring adequate water to be able to completely put the fire out
    • bring lots of extra water (~10-20L on hand)
  • you may have to bring your own wood or order it to be delivered by locals
    • dead branches and trees are important parts of the environment to allow many animals to survive
    • if collecting wood is permitted, you may need an axe and chainsaw!
      • watch out for snakes when collecting wood - snakes often sleep in or under wood and will think you are attacking them.
    • for a group camp fire, the fire needs to be big enough to keep everyone warm so aim for 10kg firewood per person per night (if the fire is too small, people will tend to get too close, stand around it and create fire hazard/burns risk)
    • a small axe will be useful for chopping kindling
    • a Canadian wood splitter axe will be useful to split large log segments
  • you are going to create fire and smoke - think well before you do so
    • don't light a fire in a valley on a night with no wind when it is likely to become foggy - the smoke will just settle around your camp sites and you will have extremely poor air quality to try to breathe all night!
    • check the wind direction and likely changes so the smoke does not blow into your tent or others
    • bring your “sitting around fire” clothing:
      • your clothing will become smokey and remain so until washed
      • avoid light flammable clothing near the fire - 3rd degree burns may be the result
      • don't get drunk - you may trip and fall into the fire
  • bring cooking options
    • don't forget aluminium foil!
  • don't forget to bring chairs!
  • bring burns first aid
    • unlike hot water scalds, fires will generally cause full thickness 3rd degree burns which usually need skin grafts - prevention is always best!
    • Glad Wrap is excellent for large severe burns until you can get to a hospital
  • have a responsible person manage fire safety including trip hazards!
    • a long handled shovel works well for managing the coals and burning wood
  • consider lip balm as your lips are likely to dry out and chap from prolonged radiant heat exposure and this may then cause an outbreak of cold sores
  • consider a small fire extinguisher and fire blanket

wood log burning rates

  • When heated, wood undergoes thermal degradation and combustion to produce gases, vapours, levoglucosan tars and carbonaceous char
    • hemicellulose decomposes first at 180 – 350°C
    • followed by cellulose (275 – 350°C)
    • then lignin (250 – 500°C)
    • Cross-linking reactions dehydrate cellulose and the re-polymerized levoglucosan begin to yield aromatic structures, becoming graphitic carbon structures at around 500°C. This decomposition process is termed pyrolysis.
    • the charred surface of wood can have temperatures of 800°C, the main pyrolysis of wood begins at temperatures above 225°C and ends below 500°C
    • When an appropriate volatile fuel-air concentration has been reached, oxidation of the pyrolysis gases leads to flaming combustion
    • in contrast, oxidation of the remaining char produces glowing or smouldering combustion
    • Smoke production depends on the burning material, oxygen supply and type of combustion (e.g. flaming or glowing).
    • at low burn temperatures, more smoke, tars and char is produced (hence not good for wood stoves to burn at low temperatures as creosote will build up more readily in the chimney)
  • provided the whole of the log is involved, the rate of mass loss during combustion is constant
  • around 60-80% is converted to convective heat and the remainder as radiant heat
  • most Australian woods give the same energy output of around 17MJ/kg (air-dried pine is less dense than air dried eucalypt hard woods so you need more to get the same mass in kg)
  • a wood log burns by:
    • flaming combustion
    • and glowing combustion (those lovely ashes in your camp fire)
  • the proportion of flaming combustion decreases with log diameter
    • 45% for oven-dried jarrah 65-75mm diameter
  • forest logs:
    • log burn time in seconds (assuming whole log is burning) = 7.729 x 105 x log radius in metres1.686 for logs < 12.5 cm (larger diameter logs have higher moisture rates and tend not to maintain flaming combustion 4)

open wood fires

camp ground fire pits

  • many camp grounds do have fire pits and generally ban you from having fires on the ground not in a designated fire pit
  • these often have a metal base which prevents heat warming your feet and they also limit the size of the fire so it will only warm a small group

ground based open fires

  • these are favoured by large groups up to a maximum of around 30 people as the fire can be made larger so people can remain warm enough further back in a ring
  • unfortunately they are not great for the environment and obviously leave fire scars

Dakota open fire pit

  • used by the Dakota people on windy grass plains to reduce risk of grass fires and reduce smoke
  • dig two holes in the ground and connect with a tunnel which will provide air to the fire which is lit in the larger hole
  • only works on rich, firm soil not on frozen or sandy soils
  • only for keeping a small group warm and for cooking

portable open fire pits

  • these enable one to elevate the fire off the ground and reduce fire scars but they will generally still kill any nearby vegetation
  • some of these are designed to have high air flows and thus “smokeless” but they will consume fire wood faster

hiking wood cooking stoves

  • these are generally small flat fold metal stoves designed for twigs, etc to boil water

enclosed wood stoves with chimneys

  • these are much less likely to cause nearby damage from embers
  • function much better in windy conditions - open camp fires MUST NOT be lit in windy conditions
  • use much less wood
  • much easier to light in the rain
  • can be used to create a hot tent with ventilation and fire risk precautions in place (eg. Flashing Kit, Triple Wall Pipes, Fireproof Matting) - if the tent is not heat tolerant (eg. lightweight nylon tents) you will need to place the stove at a distance
  • but are NOT suited to larger groups

Simple cooking ideas for dummies

  • potatoes or sweet corn
    • wrap potatoes or sweet corn in aluminum foil and place on hot coals, rotate frequently, and wait til cooked
      • perhaps 10-20 minutes for sweet corn
      • ~30 minutes or so for potatoes depending upon size
  • marshmallows - but don't let them catch fire!
  • bananas and chocolate or marshmallows
    • slit a banana longways through the concave inner curve through the peel and through the banana but stopping before you get to the peel on the other side
    • open the banana slit and place chocolates or marshmallows
    • close as best you can and wrap in aluminium foil
    • place in the edge of the fire or on coals and wait about 15-20minutes then open and eat with a spoon
australia/campfires.txt · Last modified: 2024/01/09 11:45 by gary1

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