[photo via Viewliner]

Smokey Bear, the mascot of the US Forest Service, is celebrating his birthday today (August 9th) as part of the longest running PSA campaign in American history! Since the 1940’s, Smokey has been helping prevent millions of wildfires caused by carelessness of campers. Since August is National Parks Month, we figured we’d share a little of Smokey’s knowledge with you and let you in on some of the best parks in the entire country!

Campfire Basics

1. Picking a Spot

Don’t build a campfire in dry conditions or hazardous conditions. Make sure your campsite permits campfires. Find out if your campsite has an existing fire ring or fire pit. If they don’t, look for a site that’s at least 15 feet away from your tent, trees and shrubs. Also take note of low hanging branches.

2. Digging a Pit

If you’re building your pit from scratch, make sure to clear a 10 foot diameter for the site. Remove grass, twigs, leaves and firewood from the area. Dig the pit in the dirt, about a foot deep. Circle the pit with rocks. Done! If you’re preparing a pre-made pit, fill it with small pieces of dry wood (do NOT rip living branches of off trees). Place any extra wood away from the fire. Keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby.

3. Building a Campfire

There are 3 types of wood: tinder (small twigs, dry leaves and grass), kindling (small sticks) and fuel (large pieces of wood). Loosely pile some tinder in the center of the fire pit. Next, there are various ways you can add the kindling. The tipi method, which is built in the shape of a tipi tent, is good for cooking. The cross method, made by criss crossing the kindling, is good for long lasting campfires. The lean-to, built by driving a long piece of kindling into the ground and then leaning smaller pieces against it, is good for cooking as well. Finally, the log cabin, built exactly how you’d imagine, will guarantee the longest lasting campfire. To get things started, you need to ignite the tinder and wait until the match is cold to discard it in the fire. Add more tinder as the fire grows and blow lightly on the base. Add kindling and fire wood, but make sure to keep the fire small and under control. NEVER EVER burn aluminum cans, glass or pressurized cans.

4. Extinguishing your camp fire

Allow the wood to burn completely to ash if possible and pour A LOT of water on it to drown all the embers. Pour until the hissing stops. Stir the ashes with a shovel and scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers. Make sure everything is wet and cold. If you don’t have water, use dirt to extinguish everything until it’s cool. Do NOT bury a live fire because it can burn the roots of trees and start a wild fire.

Now that you’ve got the basics down, here’s our top 3 favorite national parks in the United States!

1. Cape Royal and Angels Window in the Grand Canyon

Sunrise in Acadia National Park - Bar Harbor - Maine

[photo via Wheeler Audio

2. Glacier National Park in Montana

1Logan-Pass-at-Sunset-Glacier-National-Park-Montana

[photo via Science Blogs]

3. Acadia National Park in Maine

Sunrise in Acadia National Park - Bar Harbor - Maine

[photo via Sandy Gennrich

Gabbi Ewing is a rising junior studying Journalism as well as Film & Television at NYU. She is a New Jersey native who enjoys traveling, writing, skiing, and swimming. She hopes to travel the world, but her next adventure is taking her to Sydney, Australia to study with NYU. She aspires to work for National Geographic or Discovery Channel and to use her film, photography and writing skills to help people experience new cultures and places that they don't have the opportunity to travel to themselves.

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