Well, this is unprecedented. Almost two months of sunshine and barely any rain; the lawn outside my house is suffering something terrible. But more than that – the campsites we use for LARP are suffering something terrible too. Fire safety should be at the front of your mind when you’re thinking about camping at LARP over the coming weeks.
Many campsites in the UK have already banned fires of any kind on their sites and others are issuing guidelines on how they want you to use fires as safely as possible. Campfires are a big part of UK fest LARP culture, but having them safely is going to be key for the rest of summer.
LARP events are going to be a real tinderbox over the next few weeks. The combination of parched grass and bone dry canvas leaves our events particularly vulnerable. And if one tent catches fire it’s going to very quickly spread and could easily get out of hand endangering properly and, more importantly, lives in the process.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for staying as safe as possible at LARP for the rest of the summer:
Don’t leave ANY fires unattended
Congratulations – you’ve just inherited a new child in your group! Except you can’t take this one with you when you want to go for a wander. I should imagine that most larpers are familiar with the concept of ‘babytagging’ (where you ‘tag’ someone as the responsible adult for a child you’ve been asked to look after), well now it applies to fires as well.
If there’s only a few of you round the fire and you’ve got to leave, make sure that someone takes responsibility for looking after it. Just checking that someone knows where any safety tools are and that the fire needs to be watched while it’s still going could make all the difference.
Only light fires if you need to
Look, I’m terrible for this. Most mornings at LARP I wake up early, light my Frontier Stove , and then crawl back into bed while the fire gently warms me and takes the damp edge off my bedding and the rest of the tent. Will I be doing that over the next few weeks? No, I don’t think so. The embers burn for a long time and I don’t want to have to sit with my tent until midday when the fire will have gone out. Plus it’s just not worth increasing the risk.
It’s a bit more tricky when it comes to cooking food, but perhaps consider other options that you might have. It’s the height of summer, so a cold meal could well be a viable options. If you’ve got a decent cool box then you could easily keep a selection of food cool for a big hearty salad. The salad leaves themselves are a bit more of a problem, but it’s around this time that you can usually buy ‘everlasting’ salads in the supermarkets – just make sure you water them every day and keep them in the shade!
Gas burners are much more predictable than camp fires. They’re unlikely to spark or suddenly throw off random bits of fuel into the dry grass. Just make sure you use them on a sturdy table or box, and take all the same precautions as you normally would with any other fire.
Get It Off The Floor
Try to use taller fire pits where possible in this dry weather. That means half oil drums on legs and the like. If you have a low fire-pit that sits quite close to the ground then try and get hold of a paving slab to provide some insulation between the bottom of your firepit and the ground.
For extra peace of mind you could add a fireproof mat under your fire-pit. It won’t make it 100% safe, but it can’t hurt. Make sure you get one that isn’t just for electric fires.
Use Properly Seasoned Wood
You should never be dragging ‘green’ wood out of the forests at LARP sites to burn anyway. Aside from any issues of safely the woodlands need old wood to rot down and create a rich forest floor for insects and other animals to live in. By pulling out branches and logs that have fallen off trees you’re stopping the eco-system from flourishing and could endanger the woodland itself.
But whatever you usually use, just for the rest of this summer promise me that you’ll use some properly seasoned firewood for any campfires that you do start in camp. You can get it from garden centres all year round and it really does make a difference. Properly seasoned firewood doesn’t pop or spit nearly as much as the cheaper kinds and that could make a real difference at the moment.
Be Mindful Of What’s Going On The Fire
I know it feels great to dramatically rip out some pages from a book and dump them on the fire… but just be careful for the rest of the summer. Anything light could potentially be ejected from the fire-pit and end up on a tent or the ground. Usually you get a few seconds to respond and put that fire out, but it’s going to be much harder to do that now that the ground is so dry.
Don’t Be Drunk In Charge Of A Fire
I feel like this one should really go without saying, but don’t drink and then promise you’ll look after the fire. Your reactions are slower, and you’re more likely to be forgetful about things like damping the fire down when you go to bed. Just don’t do it. For all of our sakes.
Have A Fire Bucket
A big bucket of sand is ideal, a big bucket of water is potentially a more practical solution in a field. Make sure you get a bucket that won’t leak, a galvanised steel bucket is ideal because you can then put the ashes in it when you’ve finished with the fire. If you’ve got a bright red plastic FIRE bucket, nobody is going to complain if you use it this summer. Make sure that everyone responsible for the fire knows where the bucket of sand or water is, and that they shouldn’t hesitate to use it if they’re worried.
Here’s wishing you enjoyable times for the rest of the fest season – don’t be the one to spoil the fun because you’ve not considered fire safety.