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11/01/2022 6:54 am  #1

Firepit Abuses and Dangers

This fall, one of our forum members (NateG) came across a disturbing example of firepit abuse/ignorance/danger . In his words ... "On 10/24/22, I saw fire damage on a Galeairy Lake campsite. The campsite is the one located a short distance before the Night Lake portage. Someone has moved the official fire pit to a location very close to a group of trees and caused a root fire. The damage looks quite extensive and will likely occur again if the fire pit is not relocated ... This kind of thing really disturbs me and seems to be a trend. Since the covid park-reopening, I've removed almost a dozen illegal fire pits. This was the worst damage by far, the others had only damaged the ground." 

He contacted the park and received this reply, "Thanks so much for letting us know - we really appreciate it. We will pass along your email to our Interior Manager immediately and they will contact you if they require more details or need the photos you took."

The campsite in question is #20 on Galeairy Lake on the PCI ..

These are Nate's photos ...

Here's the location of the official firepit. The stone ring was removed and placed elsewhere on the forest floor.

Here's the relocated stone ring. The forest floor had caught fire, as can be seen to the left of the stones.

Close-up of the relocated stone ring. Unfortunately, recently fallen pine needles obscure some of the burnt forest floor damage.

This photo, from further down the embankment, clearly shows how the fire had spread through the forest floor.

This photo is from the 2013 PCI report of the campsite. The red overlay indicates how someone had relocated the stone ring.

Clearly, many new campers are uneducated about what comprises an official firepit. The are unaware what a "firepit" is and the purpose it serves.

To quote from page 8-9 of the Backcountry of Algonquin Park Leave No Trace Outdoor Skills and Ethics Booklet ... 
"Algonquin's backcountry campsites are equipped with official fireplaces. These are far more than a ring of stones laid on the forest floor. Park staff have dug down a substantial depth and width to remove any organic forest soil and roots at the location. They've then filled the resulting pit with mineral sand and/or gravel, in order to reduce the likelihood of a smoldering fire becoming established in the underground organic layer. Many destructive fires are started when campers unwittingly relocate the stone ring part of a fireplace to a “more desirable” location. They then move on, oblivious that their relocated fire-ring has started the underground organic layer smoldering. Later the wind may pick up and cause the fire to break-out to the above-ground organics, producing a conventional forest fire .. or the underground fire may spread for days destroying tree after tree from below by killing their roots. This is the very important reason for using only the established campsite fireplace! "

Nate has further commented to me, "I wish the park did more to educate what an actual fire pit is and why its not ok to make your own fire ring. or even worse, move it. And with online permits now its likely to only get worse. I appreciate the time they save me. But for the less experienced or first time campers I'm not sure its a good thing as it works now. At least picking up your permit was an opportunity to learn from park staff. Some mandatory videos might be a good option. I hear that some other park systems do that. Unfortunately I have no vote in the matter. I have shared my opinion via the park email though."


11/01/2022 9:05 am  #2

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

BarryB wrote:

 Some mandatory videos might be a good option. I hear that some other park systems do that. Unfortunately I have no vote in the matter. I have shared my opinion via the park email though."

The Bowron circuit in BC has a compulsory video when you check in.   My recollection is that they have steel fire rings embedded in the ground which would discourage relocation of the fire pit.   They also discourage fires in general -- you are not supposed to collect firewood at a campsite but only get it from designated wood supply sites that are usually located well away from campsites.  This really helps keep campsites in a more natural state than Algonquin where popular sites are denuded of anything burnable or in many cases even green trees have been taken down as a source of firewood.   Tent pads are also normally provided at every campsite which reduces erosion and limits how many tents can be setup legally at each site.   One thing Algonquin canoeists would likely not appreciate is that campsites in Bowron are not private  -- your campsite has to be shared with other groups up to the tent pad capacity of the site.


11/01/2022 9:23 am  #3

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

Very unfortunate, thanks NateG for taking the time to contact the park.  I stayed at this site in mid May, and really enjoyed it as it felt unused and quite remote for being on an access lake.  I'm unsure what the mentality would be to move the fire pit, as it was located in a great spot as is. 


11/01/2022 6:35 pm  #4

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

Interesting, so we know this happen since May.  I thought it looked like fairly recent damage.  I agree the moving is a head scratcher.  The original spot was perfect for the site, even has nice natural stone seating.  It is a beautifully secluded spot spot on a busy lake, tucked back into forest bay. 

Btw, all the emails I sent to the park service were responded to in less than 24hrs.  And weren't form letter responses either.



11/01/2022 9:34 pm  #5

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

Sad to see this.  I've come across a few burned out campsites in the park.


5/09/2023 8:51 am  #6

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

I think this is a side affect of the increase in "new" campers from the Covid surge to get outside and from the popularity of Youtube vloggers, that has newbies flocking to camp.  Don't get me wrong I love the videos from the vloggers, I spend more hours over the winter watching their videos than I do actually camping in the summer, But I feel as though it attracts the new campers that don't know the etiquette or once they are "in it" they start to realize it can be frightening during the dark nights.  Hence moving the fire pit away from the woods and closer to the openness found closer to the water.  Same can be said for all the toilet paper masses found on sites because the "thunder box" is "gross", so I'll just pee beside it instead.   It is very disappointing to see the inexperienced destroy what the rest of the park users love about it.


6/13/2023 6:52 pm  #7

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

This is similar to what yellowcanoe wrote. I used to maintain a section of the Finger Lakes Trail in Western New York State. Occasionally, I worked with crews that put up new lean-tos along the trail. As part of these projects we would install a fire pit ring. These rings had three legs on them. As I remember they were somewhere between 12 and 18 inches long. We would dig a pit deep enough so the bottom of the ring was flush with the ground. Then we would mix up some Quick-crete and pour it into the pit enough to secure the legs. It could not be moved once it cured. This is probably an expensive proposition but it would solve the problem of moving the pit. 

Last edited by Kevin (6/13/2023 7:18 pm)


6/14/2023 10:40 am  #8

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

Kevin wrote:

This is probably an expensive proposition but it would solve the problem of moving the pit. 

If they can't 'move' the pit - they'll just create a new one.

I'm not sure 'moving' pits is the issue here, I think it's the creation of a 2nd pit, without regard for the safety reasons behind pit site selection. 

Last edited by Peek (6/14/2023 10:41 am)


8/12/2023 3:06 pm  #9

Re: Firepit Abuses and Dangers

I did not know that 'official' designated fire locations were prepped. Learn something every day.


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