Camping and campfires

Camping outdoors is a great Kiwi tradition. Get to grips with some key fire safety tips to make camping safe and fun, and ensure you always stay within the rules.

Before going camping 

Regardless of whether you're camping in a forest, park or reserve, on DOC lands or rural lands, it's important you take steps to reduce the risk of fire.

Before you head off, look at checkitsalright.nz. This will let you know the current fire season in the region you're going camping. You'll need to take extra precautions if camping during a restricted or prohibited season.

Check with the land manager or property owner whether there are any rules around using campfires, gas cookers or cooking areas in the place you're camping.

What are fire seasons? 

Fire seasons let people know what the risk of fire is and if they need a fire permit to light a fire. There are three seasons: Open, Restricted and Prohibited.

  • Open: During an open fire season, you don't need a permit to light an open fire. You must have the permission of the landowner and you're still responsible for any damage the fire causes.

  • Restricted: During a restricted fire season, you need a fire permit to light an open fire. Find out how to get a permit.

  • Prohibited: During a prohibited fire season, you cannot light an open fire - even if you have a fire permit (except under special circumstances). It's illegal to light a fire, as the danger of that fire spreading is high. 

Check out the Fire Season where you’ll be camping

Lighting a campfire

If you're going to light a campfire during a restricted season, make sure you have the correct permit. Always follow the conditions set out in your permit. Each permit is specific to an address, and can have unique conditions based on risk and site details.

Always keep a copy of your fire permit with you at a fire. You may be asked to show it to a Fire Officer.

Even if you have a permit, you're still responsible for any fires you light. If you start a fire that escapes and needs to be put out, you may be liable for penalties or prosecution. 

And remember, if there’s a prohibited fire season your permit will be suspended and you won’t be able to light a fire until the prohibited season is over.

Keeping your campfire safe 

  • Keep a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher handy.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. When leaving your fire, take the time to properly extinguish your campfire.
  • Use plenty of water to extinguish all the embers of your campfire. Keep a shovel handy to stir the contents of the fire pit until it’s cold to the touch.
  • If your camp is not near a water source, use dirt to extinguish the embers and mix until cool. It’s not enough to just bury your fire, as the embers might continue to smoulder.

If you're planning on cooking with a portable gas cooker while camping, check out our guide to using an outdoor cooker.

Other fire safety tips

  • If you’re at a campsite, check the campsite rules about campfires, gas cookers and cooking areas.
  • Take your rubbish with you so you’re not leaving anything flammable that could contribute to a fire.
  • Make sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before disposing of them. Better yet, don’t throw away any cigarettes butts - take them with you when you leave. 

The number one rule

If in doubt, don’t light a fire!