Beach Fire Rules and Tips

Friends sitting around campfire on beach at night
Seiya Kawamoto/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

As much fun as beaches are during the day, at night the good times continue with the help of a toasty, and tidy, beach fire.

Spending time with friends around a fire is a time-honored tradition of summer, but before building a fire in a public place, there are a number of rules to consider, plus best practices to be conscious of.

At some beaches on the East End, fires are always prohibited, while on others they require a permit. Often a container of some sort is mandatory, and ashes and remnants must be disposed off where they won’t litter the beach and won’t reignite.

When building a beach fire, the location is very important. The fire should be, at the very least, 50 feet from any beach grass and other vegetation. Hot flying embers could easily cause a brush fire. Also keep a safe distance from the parking lot. Embers and a car’s paint job don’t mix.

If building a ground fire, use a shovel—or your hands—to dig a little ditch first. If a container is required, consider using an old charcoal grill minus the legs. Half an old oil drum also works well.

Never use pressure-treated wood in a beach fire. Not only is it bad for the environment, it is also hazardous for anyone sitting near the fire, and it smells bad. The driftwood strewn around the beach makes for a much better fire. If planning to bring wood to the beach, avoid anything with nails and staples in it. Pallets are notorious for leaving behind nails that make a mess and are dangerous for barefoot beachgoers.

While many consider a larger fire a better fire, large fires are also typically short-lived, as wood supplies run out quickly. And large fires also run a higher risk of getting out of control. Keep the fire manageable—less then 3 feet in diameter and no more than 2 feet high. As it burns down, add wood to keep it going for the duration of your stay at the beach.

Though the bay or ocean may be right there with a large supply of water, getting that water to a fire pit or hot ember that made landfall is going to be hard without buckets, so make sure to bring a few. Fill the buckets before even lighting the fire and keep them within arm’s reach.

A small fire may be extinguished by kicking some sand on it, but that is an arduous task for larger fires. Plus, the sand will remain hot for hours. Beachgoers who come around the next morning could burn themselves severely.

To ensure safety and to prevent brush fires, soak down a fire completely. Stir the embers around with a stick, and soak it again. Keep doing this until there are no hotspots remaining. Make sure you don’t leave behind unsightly embers, but also don’t throw warm embers in the trash. Many trash fires begin this way.

Keep all this in mind for your enjoyment of the beach—undisturbed by the authorities—and for the enjoyment of the people who come to the beach after you.

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