Writing about stern warnings isn't something most of us like to do. But in certain situations, it's warranted.

Now before we go any further, let's first put it out there that camping is by far a fantastic thing to experience. Whether you go with friends or family, there's nothing like getting out there and enjoying the great outdoors.

Although some folks are hard-core campers, most tend to go for just an enjoyable weekend. And here in New Jersey, we have a large selection of campsites to choose from, especially when considering camping at a state park.

And of course, there are certain traditions that go along with camping. One of the biggest is having a nice campfire as the sun goes down.

Most would probably agree that a camping trip isn't complete without that campfire. After all, it's all part of the experience.

Steve Mason
Steve Mason

But something the casual camper might overlook is the weather conditions, and knowing when it's appropriate to have a fire and when we should refrain from having one.

Whenever conditions are warm, dry, and breezy, campers should avoid starting a campfire regardless if the area's in a drought or had rained recently. Disappointing, yes, but it's all in the name of safety.

If it did rain recently, the dry and wind risks are still factors to consider. If you find yourself in this situation, there's nothing wrong with getting an opinion from the park ranger.

Beautiful bonfire with burning firewood in forest. Space for text
Liudmila Chernetska

Again, that's assuming most of the ground is fairly moist and the odds of a forest fire starting are low.

An experienced camper can usually judge it by the current conditions, but a casual camper might not. Better to play it safe rather than be sorry.

But that's just one scenario. What if the air is bone dry and has been dry for some time, and temperatures are on the warmer side with a breeze?

Dispersed camping near Guanella Pass, Colorado.

The answer? Don't even think about starting a campfire. This is especially true if a fire restriction is in place due to the weather conditions. And April 2023 is a perfect example.

As of April 12, 2023, New Jersey's state parks implemented a stage 2 fire ban for all of its campsites due to warm, dry, breezy weather. In basic terms, it means you can't have a campfire.

Now let's say you have a weekend booked and you won't be able to reschedule. What then?

Should you just cancel and try again for next time, or move forward with your trip?


Although most campsites would accommodate changing a reservation for the inconvenience, it doesn't mean you have to. But, it also means do not go against the fire ban.

I myself have been impacted by a fire ban, and it's very disappointing. Not just for me, but for my sons who really look forward to having that campfire while roasting marshmallows.

It absolutely does stink, but it is what it is. I've seen what can happen when people go against the warnings and have a campfire anyway? The result is often an out-of-control wildfire.

red flame fire texture backgrounds

This isn't a suggestion, it's a stern warning not to do it. Do not even think of starting a campfire when conditions aren't right to have one.

Again, most experienced campers know this and know how to judge it. But most casual campers don't, nor is it expected for them to know this.

So if you're a casual camper, please talk to the ranger first if there's any doubt when it comes to fire conditions. They'll tell you for certain what you can and cannot do.

You don't want to be responsible for starting a wildfire. Not only can it put others' lives at risk, but you could also be held accountable by law enforcement.

Campfire / backyard fire
Mike Brant - TSM

It's simply not worth the risk. So please, if there's a fire ban in place, do not have one while camping. Hard stop.

Of course, Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow's weather blog has you covered if you are planning to head to the campgrounds for a nice getaway. Just be smart and mindful of current restrictions.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Mike Brant. Any opinions expressed are his own.

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