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Knowing how to properly extinguish a campfire can help prevent wildfires

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Posted at 5:27 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 21:51:38-04

The Lopez Fire near Lopez Lake remains 70 percent contained with 220 acres burned.

The cause of the fire has been determined to be a smoldering campfire.

As crews remain on the fire line, the U.S. Forest Service is sharing tips for putting out a campfire safely.

A simple flick of a lighter can quickly turn into a raging wildfire, forcing campsites to evacuate.

It's something camper Kerry Zeller says he's experienced several times at Lopez Lake.

Zeller says because of those experiences, he won't start campfires in fire pits at the campgrounds on dry, windy days.

"Fire is one of the best things we can have and it can be one of the worst things we have. You have to respect it. Camping out here and having a fire, just respect what's out here," Zeller said.

For those looking to build a fire, Manuel Madrigal with the U.S. Forest Service says it's important to have a hose, bucket and a shovel ready for when it comes time to extinguish the flames.

"What I like to do is just dump some water in there and get the process going on how to extinguish it properly, so what I do is have my shovel and I like to stir things up in there to make sure the water penetrates anything that might be burning underneath the wood," Madrigal explained.

After repeating the process several times, Madrigal says sometimes a fire may look like it's out but it's best to use the top of your hand to check.

"If you feel anything still warm to the feel, add some more water and do the stirring process again," Madrigal said.

The way you start a fire is often as important as how you put it out. Madrigal says it's best to stay away from using paper as the pieces can easily fly away and start a fire elsewhere.

Back in July, a three-year-old girl was severely burned at Montaña de Oro when she stepped on a campfire that wasn't put out properly. Her family says while she has returned to dance class, the girl still has a lot of nerve pain in her feet.