(CNN) — A campfire is a place where people gather around for warmth and laughter, but if precautions aren’t taken, it can quickly become dangerous.
As wildfires rage across the West Coast of the United States, fire safety in the great outdoors is more important than ever.
There are ways, however, to greatly reduce fire risk. Tomas Gonzalez, temporary Pacific Southwest regional fire program coordinator for the USDA Forest Service, explains how to safely enjoy a campfire.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
CNN: When someone decides they want to start a campfire, what is the first step they should take?
Tomas Gonzalez: See if there are fire restrictions in the area. Sometimes no fire is allowed at all right now. Here in California, we’ve progressively made our fire restrictions stricter as the season has progressed and we’ve had more fires.
Also, find out where the fires are allowed in your National Forest, whether they’re allowed in developed campgrounds or in dispersed camping, which is camping in an undeveloped area.
Most National Forests have a website or Facebook page with the information.
CNN: If the National Forest says it’s OK to have a fire, what is the first step to safely start the fire?
Gonzalez: It’s always a good idea to have the fire in a ring of rocks. Also use the metal ring area if it’s in a developed campground to keep the sparks from flying out.
CNN: When it’s time to put out the
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