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Everything you need to know about when and where to enjoy a campfire in SA’s national parks

Love relaxing around a campfire in a national park but not sure when or where you can have one? Here’s the lowdown.

The onset of crisp, cold autumn nights has many campers keen to light a campfire during their next stay in a national park. But how do you know when it is okay to light a small campfire, and when it isn’t?

Each year across South Australia there is a Fire Danger Season, and campfires can only be lit in national parks outside of this season.

There are a number of variables that go into setting a Fire Danger Season across the state and for national parks, which is why dates may vary from year to year.

How do these dates get set?

As the bushfire hazard leader for the state, the South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) sets Fire Danger Season dates for each region, in conjunction with local bushfire management committees.

Bushfire management committees ensure that local communities are involved in decision-making and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is represented on these committees by its Regional Fire Management Officers.

There are nine committees across South Australia: Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges, Fleurieu Peninsula, Flinders, Mid North and Yorke Peninsula, Kangaroo Island, Limestone Coast, Lower Eyre Peninsula, Murray Mallee, Outback, and Upper Eyre Peninsula.

Each committee considers factors such as the seasonal outlook, local conditions, soil dryness, curing, and how much harvest has been completed in their region – along with a number of other factors. 

They then make a recommendation about the dates to the CFS Chief Officer who will declare and gazette the final dates.

Around the same time each year, Fire Danger Restrictions are prepared for public lands by the NPWS fire management team.

A spreadsheet is prepared in consultation with the CFS, which then becomes available online for quick and easy searches on fire restriction rules regarding every park.

Do national park Fire Danger Restrictions match regional Fire Danger Season dates?

Mostly national park Fire Danger Restrictions align with regional Fire Danger Season dates, in an effort to minimise public confusion, however local factors are taken into consideration for each park and very occasionally the dates differ.

Then there are other parks that sit over two fire danger districts, so NPWS needs to make a call with its Fire Danger Restriction dates, normally choosing the longest date range, that is the earliest start date and latest end date for the two districts combined.

So how do I know if and when I can have a campfire in the national park I’m camping at?

It’s important to remember that many national parks don’t allow solid fuel fires (wood and charcoal) at any time of the year.

To check whether a campfire is allowed in the park you want to visit, visit the NPWS website and use the find a park tool to refine your search to ‘Campfires (seasonal restrictions apply)’. This will display all 38 parks that allow campfires.

For the parks that do allow campfires, they’re only allowed outside of the Fire Danger Season for that region. Each park is unique, so check the safety tab on the individual park page on the NPWS website for Fire Danger Season dates and rules specific to that park, or refer to this full list of park fire restrictions.

Besides the permitted dates, what other rules are there for lighting campfires?

So you’ve checked that you can have a campfire at your chosen park for the dates you’re going to be there. Now it’s time to brush up on the other rules, because even when campfires are allowed in a national park, strict conditions apply to lighting them.

Here are a few tips for you to follow while you’re visiting a national park:

  • Make sure you bring your own firewood, as collecting firewood within national parks is prohibited. Ensure the firewood is free from dirt and weeds, to avoid bringing pest species into the park. Read more about the rules for collecting firewood.
  • Consider the weather when lighting a fire – make sure the fire stays where it should by not lighting a fire on a hot and windy day.
  • All fires and barbecues (including gas and liquid fuel) are not allowed on days declared by the CFS as Total Fire Ban. To find out whether a Total Fire Ban has been declared for the park you are visiting refer to the CFS website.
  • Campfires must be carefully managed once lit – they must be in designated areas and must be controlled until extinguished. Make sure the area around and above the fire is clear to 4 metres and have a responsible person near the fire at all times with water or an appropriate extinguisher on hand. Read more in our story about safely enjoying a campfire.

This information relates to national parks land only. Restrictions under the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005 may remain on other land. For further details visit the CFS website.

Now that you know how to find out when and where to have a campfire, get your shopping list out as you’ll want to add the ingredients for these tasty campfire treats

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