For many people, an evening campfire is the best part of camping.
Most Parks Canada campsites have fire pits or metal fireboxes for your campfire. You may only build a campfire in a designated fire pit when camping in a Parks Canada location.
Always check if there’s a fire ban
Keep your fire small and under control. Never leave a fire unattended.
Only use firewood provided by the park. In most national parks, it is illegal to collect and burn wood from the forest.
A tended fire is a safe fire! Make sure your fire is completely out before you go to bed at night or leave your campsite. Pour water over the fire to put it out. Alert park staff if you see any suspicious smoke or fire.
How to light a fire
Build a “teepee” shape with paper and kindling. Carefully add bigger piece of wood as the fire starts.
Crumple paper into balls and place it in the firepit.
kindling around the balls to make a teepee shape Light the paper and wait for the kindling to catch fire.
Add bigger pieces of wood. Don’t add too fast! A fire needs oxygen to burn.
Once your fire is going, sit back and relax.
Add wood to the fire as needed.
Always keep a water bucket nearby in case of emergencies, or to douse the fire when you are done. Make sure it is completely extinguished before you leave your campsite.
Never started a campfire before?
Watch the following video and you’ll be roasting marshmallows in no time!
How-to start a campfire
[A campsite stands in a forest clearing at the edge of a lake on an autumn day. Three people sit on chairs around a campfire near the water's edge. The Parks Canada logo, a white circle around a beaver on sitting a log, appears.]
Narrator: "One of the best parts about camping is relaxing around the campfire. Learning how to build a campfire the right way will keep it burning for hours."
[Text on screen: LEARN-TO CAMP, HOW TO LIGHT A CAMPFIRE]
[The campers smile and chat while roasting marshmallows over the fire.]
[Text on screen: SAFETY FIRST]
Narrator: "Before you start, check the fire bans in your area and know the rules and regulations of your campground."
[One camper scrolls through the Jasper Park information page on her cell phone.]
Narrator: "In Parks Canada locations, you must use a designated fire pit for your campfire."
[A metal circle with cutouts of wild animals surrounds a pit containing ash and burned wood. Dry pine needles and maple leaves lay scattered around the pit.]
Narrator: "It’s also illegal to burn wood and anything else harvested from the forest. Now, let’s get started."
[One camper carries a metal bucket along the edge of the lake and puts it down at the campsite. She squats beside the empty fire pit, crumples sheets of newspaper and puts them in. Another camper chops kindling nearby while the third one carries over an armful of logs.]
[Text on screen: KEEP WATER HANDY]
Narrator: "First, you’ll need to have water or sand nearby to extinguish your fire."
[One camper fills the bucket with water from the lake and sets it down in the clearing. Later, he gradually pours it over a fire in the pit, producing a large cloud of steam.]
[Text on screen: COTTON BALLS, NEWSPAPER, DRYER LINT, CORN CHIPS, FIRE STARTERS]
Narrator: "Tinder will help start your fire. Newspaper, dryer lint, cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, fire starters or even corn chips are all good options."
[A small jar of petroleum jelly, cotton balls, corn chips, a crumpled sheet of newspaper, several tinder sticks and dryer lint appear in a row on a boulder.]
[Text on screen: KINDLING, LARGER SIZE KINDLING, FUEL WOOD]
Narrator: "Small pieces of wood will help build the base of your fire. These are called kindling. Larger kindling will help you grow your fire. Lastly, you will need logs to keep the fire burning, also called fuel wood."
[One camper kneels on the ground and uses a small axe to chop logs into smaller pieces. A pile of small pieces of chopped wood, a pile of larger pieces of chopped wood, and two logs appear in a row on a boulder.]
[Text on screen: LOG CABIN METHOD]
Narrator: "If you’ve never started a campfire, the log cabin method is an easy way to get a campfire burning quickly, without much tending. Here’s how to do it."
[One camper squats beside the fire pit and stacks four parallel pairs of chopped wood in a square around a pile of crumpled newspaper. Then, she stands three pieces of kindling inside the square, leans the tops together to form a pyramid and uses a barbecue lighter to ignite the newspaper.]
[Text on screen: STEP 1, PLACE TINDER IN FIRE PIT]
Narrator: "Crumple newspaper into loose balls and place them in the fire pit."
[Smiling, the camper crumples sheets of newspaper into loose balls and piles them in the centre of the pit.]
[Text on screen: STEP 2, LAY FUEL WOOD]
Narrator: "Place smaller pieces of fuel wood parallel to each other."
[The camper sets two pieces of fuel wood on either side of the newspaper. Then, she balances two pieces of larger kindling on the ends of the fuel wood, forming a square around the newspaper.]
[Text on screen: STEP 3, ADD LAYERS OF KINDLING]
Narrator: "Place kindling parallel to each other on top of the fuel wood so you form a square. It will look like a cabin."
[The camper stacks two layers of kindling.]
[Text on screen: STEP 4, FORM TEEPEE IN THE MIDDLE]
Narrator: "Pile smaller pieces of kindling on top of the newspaper to form a teepee shape in the middle."
[The camper stands three pieces of kindling inside the square and leans the tops together, forming a pyramid.]
[Text on screen: STEP 5, LIGHT UP TINDER]
Narrator: "Place a lighter between the wood and light up your tinder. You may need to softly blow on the flames to feed it oxygen and help it grow."
[The camper uses a barbecue lighter to set fire to the newspaper. She stands up and steps away. Smoke rises as the flames consume the newspaper and ignite the standing pieces of kindling.]
[Text on screen: STEP 6, ADD MORE KINDLING]
Narrator: "Once your fire is going, add a couple more layers of kindling to the top. Be careful to not smother the flames, a campfire needs oxygen."
[The standing pieces of kindling lie burning against the side of the square. The camper squats beside the pit and lays two pieces of kindling across the top of the square, leaving space between them. Smoke billows as the fire grows, igniting the top layers of kindling.]
[Text on screen: STEP 7, KEEP IT GOING WITH MORE FUEL WOOD]
Narrator: "Add more fuel wood as needed."
[The camper squats beside the pit, holding two pieces of fuel wood over the burning fire.]
Narrator: "Never leave your fire unattended and extinguish it if you leave the campsite. To do so, gradually pour water over the campfire. Do not leave your fire until the ashes are cool to the touch."
[Another camper carries a bucket of water to the pit and slowly pours the water over the fire, producing a large cloud of steam. He pokes the logs with a long stick as the steam dissipates, and then touches the logs with his fingertips.]
Narrator: "Now that you know how to build a campfire, break out the marshmallows and enjoy your camping trip!"
[Later, the campers sit on chairs around the campfire. They smile and chat while roasting marshmallows. One of them grins while pulling part of a gooey marshmallow off of his stick.]
Narrator: "If you see suspicious smoke or fires and are unsure about campground regulations, just ask our friendly Parks Canada staff."
[Text on screen: TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PARKS CANADA LEARN-TO CAMP PROGRAM, VISIT: PARKSCANADA.CA/LEARNTOCAMP]
[Smoke billows from the fire. One camper stands up and looks out at the lake.]
Narrator: "A message from the Government of Canada."
[The Canada Wordmark.]
This video is also available in the following languages:
Parks Canada staff tip
Want to make sure the chocolate in your s’mores melts? Try pre-assembling your s’mores, wrapping them in tin foil and placing them near the fire!
Georgian Bay Islands National Park staff