California Campfire Permit
You can help protect the National Forests from wildfires by knowing and following the rules for the safe use of fire. You must have a California Campfire Permit to use a stove, lantern, or campfire outside a developed campground or recreation area. The permit is your agreement to follow the campfire restrictions and regulations in effect.
Remember that regulations governing campfires can change with weather conditions and the seasons. To protect yourself and the forest, before each visit, check with the Forest Service for current campfire restrictions. If you smoke outside a vehicle, be sure you do so within a cleared area at least three feet in diameter. Smoking outside of an enclosed vehicle may be completely prohibited during times of high fire danger.
Your campfire permit is valid from the date issued until the end of the calendar year; it may be used in any National Forest in California.
Campfire permits can also be issued in person:
Go to one of our offices listed on our Contact Us page during business hours and a receptionist will issue you a permit. Or any Forest Service, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Office, or Bureau of Land Management office.
During certain times of the year, it is necessary to impose restrictions on campfires and other open flame fires due to high fire danger. It is your responsibility to find out what these restrictions are. The best way to do this is by contacting a local office in the area you intend to visit.
Terms of the Permit
When you sign the permit you agree to the following:
Clear all flammable material away from the fire for a minimum of five feet in all directions to prevent escape of the fire. Meadows make poor campsite locations as you will destroy sections of the meadow with the campfire and the clearance.
Have a shovel available at the campfire site for preparing and extinguishing campfires.
Have a responsible person in attendance at all times. Leave the permit with that person and make sure they are aware of the terms of the permit.
Extinguish campfire with water, using the drown, stir, and feel method.
It Can Cost You – You will be held liable for the cost of suppression and damages caused by any wildfire that starts through negligence on your part.
How To Safely Start And Put Out A Campfire
Prepare Your Site – Find a level spot away from overhanging branches, brush, or dry grass. Keep away from the base of a hill. Escaped fires travel uphill fast. With a shovel, clear a circle 10 feet wide down to bare dirt. Hollow out a fire pit 6 inches deep and 2 feet across at the center of the cleared circle. Pile the dirt around the fire pit. Keep your fire small. Use existing fire rings where available to reduce the number of disturbed areas and damage to soil cover and vegetation.
Beware of the Duff – Duff is the layer of decomposing wood material that lies on the forest floor between pine needles and bare dirt. Many times it may look like dirt, but it isn’t. Duff burns, dirt doesn’t. It allows even the smallest ember to smolder for days, most times underground and unnoticed, until enough heat is built up to produce flames. Don’t let the duff fool you.
- Attend to Your Fire – Never leave your campfire unattended, even for a few minutes or if you take a nap.
- Drown the Fire – Drown your campfire 1/2 hour before you break camp. Use your shovel to separate the burning pieces of wood in the fire pit.
- Stir and Mix – Stir and mix water with the ashes until the fire is out. Don’t try to bury the fire under dirt, it can smolder for hours and then escape.
- Drown Briquettes – Charcoal briquettes should be extinguished by dumping into a pail of water, mixing thoroughly, and then place into the fire pit.
- Feel the Ashes – Feel the ashes to be sure the fire is out. Before you leave the campsite, check the area within 50 feet of the fire for sparks or embers that may have escaped.
- Come Prepared – Obtain your campfire permit, bring your shovel, and a pail for water.