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Building safe campfires prevents wildfires

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WHISKEYTOWN, Calif. - It's hard to make a good, summertime s'more without a sturdy campfire for toasting marshmallows.

Jim Milestone, Park Superintendent, shared his steps for building a safe and sustainable campfire at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. It all starts with picking the right location.

"It's very important to only go to designated camping sites where there's a grill or a fire pit," Milestone said. Whiskeytown prohibits park guests from building fires on the beach because the hot coals pose a safety threat to children who are walking barefoot.

Milestone said clearing the area around the campfire is vital to preventing a wildfire in the backcountry. He recommends bringing a large shovel to assist in clearing dry leaves and brush.

Build the base of the fire using dry wood only. Milestone said wet wood emits more smoke into the air. He also said it's important to build small fires rather than large bonfires which can quickly get out of hand.

Never use lighter fluid to ignite the fire.

"I always rely on matches because I can physically have them on-hand, I know where I put them and toss them into the fire when you get your fire going," Milestone said.

Continue adding dry wood or newspaper as needed to fuel the fire.

To extinguish, fill a large bucket with water from the lake and dump it onto the fire until the flames are depleted.

After this, Whiskeytown Fire Engine Captain Eric Borlaug suggests mixing the water and wood around with a shovel.

"Use the back of your hand to make sure it's cool," Borlaug said is the next step. Milestone agreed.

"If you feel it's all cold, you know it's safe," Milestone added.

When leaving the campsite, Milestone said it's important to check trailers for any loose chains, which can spark easily on the pavement and ignite a fire.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area is a smoke-free park site. Designated smoking areas are available such as the Visitor Center on Kennedy Memorial Drive.

For more information on preventing wildfires at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, click here.

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