Image from tobiastoft.
Bonfires are pretty much a summer and beach trip tradition. You might think they're easy to throw together in a few minutes, but making a bit more effort will turn a mediocre bonfire gathering into one that you and your friends will fondly remember.
The most important thing to consider before organising a bonfire or fire pit is whether or not there has been a 'total fire ban' issued for your area. With bush fire season upon us this summer, staying vigilant against the spread of bush fires and remaining safe should be your first concern.
If you intend to light up a bonfire off private property (like at a local beach or in a park), you may need a permit. You can find out how to apply for one on the government site who runs the beach or park, common options include your city or state parks departments. Besides a permit, you should also think about:
- Weather conditions: Of course, you want the sky to be clear, but also think about what the wind is like at your bonfire spot and if the temperature will drop a lot once the sun goes down.
- Wood and fire starter supply: If you don't have a pile of firewood to bring, decide where you'll buy the wood. Often grocery stores near popular bonfire spots sell wood. You should also bring along stuff to start your fire, or make your own fire starters. In a pinch, Doritos work.
- Beach or park rules: The beach or park likely closes at a certain time, and bonfires may not be allowed after specific hours. You should also check the parks department site to see if dogs are allowed and if they have any restrictions around glass bottles.
Public bonfire spots can be really popular, so you may also consider how crowded the place you want to go to will be and whether you need to get there well before sunset to get a prime spot.
Maximise Your Set Up
A great bonfire isn't one that you light and the set up is over. You want to create a cosy atmosphere to make the most of the work you've put in.
- Bring tarps and blankets: A blazing fire only provides so much warmth, so bringing blankets ensures that you won't have to leave because people are cold. Tarps are good to put under blankets or mats before you sit down since the sand or ground could suck a lot of your body heat.
- Know how you'll set up your fire: Seems obvious, but you don't want to have to start your fire over and over because it won't catch. You can follow our fire building guide or try the simple "Swedish torch" method (requires a chain saw). You should use the fire rings provided, if available.
- Stock up on snacks: Stick to snacks that are easy to eat with your hands so that people don't have to juggle a plate while sitting on the ground.
- Make clean up easy: Set up trash cans (or boxes or bags or whatever works for you) so people sort of clean up after themselves as the night goes on. Don't leave your site messy or full or trash, it just ruins the spot for everybody.
- Go all out: If you want to go all out, chairs, tables, speakers, and coolers will make your bonfire more comfortable and make it easier to hang out for hours.
You should also have a way to extinguish your fire quickly if it gets out of control. A bucket of water, an extinguisher, or a shovel and pile of sand can all be helpful.
Be a Good Person and Clean Up
People who leave trash and smouldering fires are the worst. Clean up after yourself and your friends (if they're good friends, they will help).
- Pack trash out: Bag up all your trash and recycling and either put it in containers offered on site, or throw it in your trunk to dispose of at home.
- Put out your fire: Make sure your fire is as out as possible so that coals don't start an unwanted fire after you leave. In order to do this; drown the fire with water, mix the ashes and embers with soil or sand, and douse again with water. Touch with your hand to make sure the fire is cool enough to leave. Remember to completely extinguish the fire after the bonfire is finished, stray embers can be dangerous and could cause a rogue fire.
Once you have your bonfire routine down, it will be easy to throw together one quickly and make the most of summer.