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Bonfires can endanger beachgoers and wildlife 

Posted at 6:50 AM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-29 08:19:22-04

For many, Memorial Day weekend has been widely acknowledged as the unofficial start of the summer.


That means more people will start visiting our beaches, and more bonfires or barbeque-related fires.

After the Nueces County Emergency Service District #2 in Flour Bluff answers a call on Padre Island, they

always make time to check the beach for any dangerous hazards.

“On the Island, we have a lot of dune fires that happen just from people that didn’t properly put away their bonfires then embers got up in the dunes, and we will be out there fighting for hours to take care of an issue that never should have happened,” said Flour Bluff ESD #2 Captain Christopher Burkhardt.

Fire pits can smolder for up to 24 hours despite being covered with sand. In fact, the sand may lock in the heat even if the flames are out.

“Yes, every year we have countless people that wind up going into the emergency room, calling in for emergency services due to stepping on bonfires that are buried and getting up to second or third degree burns on their feet,” said Burkhardt.

The Flour Bluff fire department wants to urge beachgoers to properly douse any bonfire or barbeque-related fires or coals before leaving the beach.

“All they have to do when they are done with your bonfire, 3 foot by 3 foot bonfire at the beach, you can actually pour water on it and make sure it is completely out and bury it. We don’t want people coming out and stepping on what we call a land mine whenever they put their foot down on the sand and underneath is hot embers and really burn their feet and get sent to the emergency room, ” said Burkhardt.

These bonfires can also endanger wildlife as well.

“We have a lot of wildlife out here, and the last thing we want is to have sea turtles getting into these embers, like they will start digging around, and if they get into a bonfire that has not been properly put out, they can kill a lot of marine life out here,” said Burkhardt.

If you are planning on having a bonfire in the near future remember these tips in order to stay safe.

 The prevailing winds must not exceed 20 miles per hour, your bonfire site needs to be at least 50 feet from any structure, 25 feet from any vehicle, and 75 feet from the sand dunes, and the fire pit can’t be any larger than 3 feet wide.

You are also required by the park to use wood that’s without nails or screws. Use wood that’s actually meant for campfires. No construction or scrap wood, which can contain nails and screws that are dangerous on a beach anywhere, anytime. Bundles of firewood are inexpensive and available at hardware, grocery and convenience stores in the area.

 Never leave a fire unattended. When you’re done and ready to go, put the fire out completely.

Don’t leave any embers behind. You can bury the coals once they are thoroughly doused with water and cold, but do not bury a live fire.