One evening recently, my wife, my grandson and I visited a local beach on the Lantzville waterfront. A circle of young people had a bonfire going. Several logs provided back rests and places to sit. One person was strumming a guitar, and a few voices carried the tune. I realized my grandson felt drawn toward them. Indeed, I could feel the pull myself, based on many happy memories. It isn’t just kids that are attracted to a bonfire.
The fact is, many, many of my happiest memories involved sitting around a bonfire.
I learned how to build a fire at a very young age, probably in the 8 to 10 years old range. My father taught me to light the wood and coal furnace that heated our home. I would cut the kindling, lay the bed of the fire with crumpled newspaper, lay on the kindling, strike the match and light the paper, then feed the fire as it blazed.
I clearly remember the huge bonfires we had at YMCA summer camp. On the closing evening, as all us junior campers sat around, one of the leaders shot a flaming arrow across the lake. A group of leaders suddenly appeared into the light from the fire, paddling canoes across the lake and onto our shore. This was magic stuff for young souls.
Later, in Scouts, we had lots of camping trips, each which included campfires. I honed my fire lighting skills, and could light fires in the wettest weather. As an adult these skills served me well on many a hunting or fishing trip. I remember a steelhead fishing trip on the Englishman River with my two sons. It was the coldest day in January, and every footstep required extra effort. When my son said “Is it time to go home yet?” I realized that the boys needed a little heat because normally you couldn’t drag them from the riverside. So I kindled a fire that warmed us all up, and saved the day. Saved the trip.
There is something about a fire that transcends the need for heat and light. Although those are important. I think there is an ancient memory in all of us, that recalls the warmth and light and a sense of spirituality from eons ago. So I really empathize with the kids having a fire on the beach.
However, along with the freedom to build fires comes a significant responsibility to be careful and considerate. Locally we need to consider protecting our forests. People should always be willing to forgo having a bonfire in “fire season”. Obvious, but I still find some people need reminding in August. Keep the fire small. Always make sure there is water available to put the fire out. Also, notice I mentioned the need to be considerate. Recently I found remains of a fire right on the access road to the Foothills development. Right on the pathway everyone walks on. Why didn’t the people remove the remains of the fire? Similarly on the beach, there are obvious corridors that people use to walk on the beach. Don’t put fires there, that’s inconsiderate.
I know that its traditional to be eating and drinking around a campfire. But folks, please, please, take all your garbage away.