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A crackling fire will also tend to obliterate the subtle sounds and Milwaukee sights of the evening and nighttime. Without a fire you may find it easier to feel connected to the natural world at night. Allow your eyes to grow accustomed to the dark. You may find that fear of the night, which is common, will subside at least partially. Even when campfires are permitted, it’s nice to occasionally do without one.

Where campfires are legal it’s important to be conscientious about building, tending, and putting them out. Try to do this in a way that will have the least impact on the environment. Use a preexisting fire circle, if available, rather than making a new one. Try not to destroy any plant life, and avoid starting the fire directly on organic soil (soft earth). In some regions of the country digging a pit for the fire is recommended.

Gather only dead wood and branches you find on the ground for firewood. Cutting dead trees which are standing or breaking off branches leaves an area looking less wild and attractive. If you’ve never built a campfire before, have someone teach you, or consult a book on outdoor skills. Keep in mind that some older books will recommend camping methods that are no longer acceptable in the wilderness (including such practices as cutting live branches or digging trenches).

It should be obvious that a fire must never be left untended, yet it still happens all too often. A gust of wind can easily blow ashes around and ignite a spreading ground fire in a matter of moments, especially in dry conditions. That’s precisely how many forest fires begin, and the result is much destruction. Take seriously your responsibility to make sure that none of your actions, including fire-building, has any harmful consequences.

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