Campfire Conundrum

Submitted: Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 09:26
ThreadID: 86885 Views:3170 Replies:8 FollowUps:7
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The winter months are here and the Grey Nomads and Not So Grey Nomads are on the move. Those who shun caravan parks for free campsites congregate en masse at various places as described by the Camps books. Some bring their own wood for a fire and others denude the surrounding bush by scavenging for dead wood or chainsawing wood and 'heaven forbid' even cutting green timber.

We like to have a fire when we decide to utilise the same to cook a meal. We do have gas as an alternative heat source. We prefer a small fire for hot cooking or for coals cooking.

So when camping at these 'sites' one often finds a site with a ready-made 'fireplace'. And this fireplace is invariably made with various forms of rocks, some carried for some distance and placed in a sort of circle around where the fire has been.

This has me puzzled. Why do campers do this? In the first place it can be quite dangerous as rocks can explode. It also makes using the fire more difficult and the same when wanting to extinguish it when you leave.

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Reply By: CSeaJay - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 09:42

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 09:42
With young kids around, we always ring the fireplace and it serves as a boundary line for the kids "not to cross"
Once you have a fire (flames) and a campoven area (coals) it is easy to have a large area of potential hot coals/sand/ash that look cool. Kids walk over to throw something in the fire and get burnt.

Thats why we do it - others probably have other reasons?

Cheers, CJ
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Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 14:59

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 14:59
hi all
a bush fire place whether it be a ring of rocks or a hole dug in the ground helps contain and keep the heat more concentrated and there-fore the wood lasts longer and the fire doesn;t have to be as big to get the same effect as with on top of ground fires that are exposed to the open winds and will burn away very rapidly and in a short time you will be out of wood
it basicly the same reason in years gone past that every old stylehome had a fire place in it to contain the distribution and concentrate the heat source
except inside one had to have a chimney to make it draw and extract the smoke
as for exploding rocks
i have only ever seen limestone that was freshly dug up containing moisture
that would occasionly explode and i actually had a small bit land in the top of my boot on the farm while picking and burning malley stumps but have never ever seen ironstone or granite explode and fly around

in actual fact the italian grano workers that used to build those rock walls to harness and guide water into govt dams that they built throughout many districts in wa
(wave rock water resivor at hyden is a clasic example)
used to light a fire on the top of the big slabs laying around in the late evening
and heat the rock slab then during the night as it cooled rapidly the rock slabs used too crack into smaller size peices so they could man handle them

i also have an old boys scout book that was given to my father in his early teen years and that building of fire rings with rocks and /or digging a hole was and has been practised for many many many generations throughout the world even tribal people from various countrys have all used the self same basic principal
so its nothing new and a very soundwell used practice
cheers barry
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Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 15:21

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 15:21
hi just had a look
'the scouting book for boys '
first written by robert baden powell , bt and copywrighted in 1908 and dedicated with permission to
his royal highness
the prince of wales
his royal highness
prince albert
duke of york
and the copy i have was the twelth edition printed in 1926 and given to dad in 1928 and cost 2/6 (shillings and pence) eh that would be 25cents now
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Follow Up By: Member - Duncs - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 21:03

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 21:03
Hi Mazcan,

I have seen granite, dry and warm from sitting in the sun, explode and send shrapnell around the campsite. A thin sliver landed on the brim of my Akubra. I only detected it when the hat caught fire.

I learnt about campfires in the scouts and always built a ring of stones. A few years later I got to know an old bushman in the Blue Mountains. I walked with Geoff for years and never saw him build a fire ring with stones. He would make use of a natural depression if it was available but never built a stone ring.

I don't think it is wrong to do but I don't.


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Reply By: Skippype - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 09:44

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 09:44
Maybe its to help contain the fire and stop it spreading.
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Reply By: Bonz (Vic) - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 10:43

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 10:43
Exploding rocks are mainly river rocks, they explode when the water inside heats up and expands. If not near a river then I forget about the explosions.

The rocks keep the fire from spreading and are a great mount for a grate.

We almost always have a fire when camping and usually cook on the gas, but have just bought a camp oven and plan to test it out
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Follow Up By: ob - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 11:41

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 11:41
Yep, what Bonz said, and if the rocks are the site of quite a few previous fires they would have exploded long ago. I think the risk of that as compared to the advantages of keeping the fires contained are pretty minimal.

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Reply By: deserter - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 12:30

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 12:30
I have heard this exploding rock thing since I was a nipper but never spoken to anyone who has seen it happen. Wonder how "explosive" this rock thing really is ???
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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 13:11

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 13:11
Hi Sif,

We have a small campfire whenever we can - with the emphasis on small. If we are camping in a frequently used place we collect wood from away from the campsite, though there are practical limits to what is possible. If there is an existing fireplace we will use that if possible although sometimes they are so full of ash, tins and broken glass that you have to do a clean-up first, and often rearrange some rocks to suit your BBQ.

Rocks are useful, as others have said, to support a BBQ plate or billy, and to contain the fire. They are also useful as a windbreak. I have seen a rock explode once or twice but not so often that I consider it much of a risk.

If we are bush camping where others seldom go we dig a small pit and light the fire in that. The pit with the dirt as a windbreak around it, contains the fire and the heat better, and we use the excavated dirt to cover the ash before we leave - making sure the fire is first put out completely. (Fires that are just covered with dirt can smoulder and stay dangerously hot for a long time.) That way when we leave it is hard to tell that anyone has been there.

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J and V
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Follow Up By: Triggy - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 19:43

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 19:43
Digging a small hole and placing the earth around the fire as a wind break / heat containment then using the same soil to cover the ashes before leaving the site to return it to as "normal" as possible, for me to.
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Reply By: Meggs - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 16:29

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 16:29
We use a fire surround made of light guage aluminium and it is great for a fire. It has a couple of cheap hinges and folds up and goes into a potato sack. We would find a couple of very small rocks for underneath the camp oven stops the oven bottom smothering the coals. We use old dead timber as native shrubs and tree have a limited life before being killed by borers so there can be heaps of dead timber to be found at least where go.
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Follow Up By: Member - MUZBRY(Vic) - Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 14:43

Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 14:43
Gday Meggs
I bet that piece of potato on the ground was for me !

Great place to be Mt Blue Rag 27/12/2012

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Follow Up By: Meggs - Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 16:23

Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 16:23
I treat guests better than that!

Just a case of too many tatas and not enough hotplate and some were going to fall off.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 18:41

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 18:41
Almost all the bush and remote camps we find have been found by someone before us - the evidence being the circle of rocks fills with ash. I consider that true bush camping leaving no trace involves putting the rocks back and leaving the place as found. Some have a number of rocks circles, above and beyond the number of campers that would fit, so leaving for the next person is a waste of time - they make their own. At one rest area camp along the Great Central Road someone had made a good fireplace from two old wheels, which are abundant along the route.


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Reply By: SIF4X4 - Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 08:04

Sunday, Jun 12, 2011 at 08:04
Thanks for all the replies and lovely photos
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