How to build a safe fire in your outdoor education sessions

Blog Post by Rachel Street 05 October 2014

Whether it’s a Forest School session or any activity in your outdoor curriculum, building a safe fire can really enrich your pupils’ learning experience

Here’s a quick ‘How To’ guide with some safety tips and links to further information.

Safety tips and caring for the environment:

  • Find a suitable place (e.g. woodland area, open grassland, school grounds) and ask for permission.
  • Emphasize that you’re only building a small manageable fire and will ensure it’s completely put out and the area cooled and returned to how it was before you started.
  • Dig out a square with sides approximately the length of your hand to your elbow (approx 40 cm square) and put soil/turf carefully to one side.  This will be your fire pit and ensure your fire stays a manageable size.  You can edge the sides with logs for further safety.
  • Create a boundary outside of your fire pit with logs so children don’t get too close to the fire – you could lay 4 logs in a square around the fire pit.

Building Fire Pit

Kneeling safely outside the fire pit

  • Make sure you have a fire blanket, a heatproof fire glove, a clean cold water supply (a 5 litre water carrier is fine) and burns first aid kit to hand, next to the fire.
  • Make sure you keep your fire small and always have a responsible adult present to look after it.  If you want to (for example) toast marshmallows, then you need to ensure that you keep a sensible ratio of adults to children so you can look after everyone safely.
  • A marshmallow stick can be cut from a tree (greenwood will not set on fire as easily as dry sticks) and whittled at the end so it’s clean – make sure it is long enough to ensure hands holding the toasting sticks are not burned.

Building Fire Pit2

Children toasting hot dog sausages and chocolate brioche

  • Make sure children kneel down outside the log square so they can’t trip/fall into the fire
  • Remind them to check the temperature of the marshmallow so they don’t burn their mouths, and not to wave their sticks around. Be careful of eyes.
  • When you’ve finished, if your fire was not too big, you should be able to allow it to burn down.  Spread the embers out to cool them down and then douse your fire completely with water starting from the outside and moving in.  Larger logs can be extinguished by carefully scraping off the embers. Make sure nothing (including the soil) is either smouldering or hot before you leave.  Fill the pit in again with the soil that you dug out and replace any turf back on top.
  • If the ground is still hot to touch, then you should not leave it as it may still re-ignite.
  • There should be very little sign you were even there and the grass will not be damaged.

Hopefully you’re feeling more confident about keeping everyone safe and happy.  Let us know your top tips in the comments box below.


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