Fire Rings - Clean Them Up!...And Make Them Disappear


Belay On
Site Team
Jun 30, 2009
Sierra Nevada Range
I hate fire rings. They are garbage dumps with half burned trash, melted plastic, food scraps, cigarette butts, cans................ and an invitation to leave more trash. During fire restrictions they are an invitation to disaster and the excuse often heard is, "There's a fire ring so I thought it was okay."

These violators have driven by numerous signs saying no fires.

Practice leave no trace. If you want to have a fire, bring a fire pan, build a small fire, put it out cold, and carry all the ash out. Make it look like - as close as you can - no one has been there.

Or learn to do without a fire. Embrace the night. Be quiet and listen to the sounds of night. Learn to see all the wildlife that emerge with the dark. Look at the stars. Feel the cooling air. Enjoy not reeking of wood smoke. Be a more invisible visitor when in wild places.

Yesterday morning Julie and I discovered this on our dawn walk and checked out a dispersed campsite about .5 mile from our spot.


Egg shells and tortilla chips littered the ground.


Hard to see in this photo but the really special wet trash was in a black garbage bag in the fire ring with a rock on top.


The tent stuff sack was not in the fire ring but is in the photo as we gathered all the other assorted trash around the camp.
We returned with the truck and shovel after we vacated the dispersed site we were using - and cleaned up the smaller fire ring there. We cleaned everything up and loaded all the trash into the truck and made the area as natural as we could. The fire ring is gone. We shoveled up all the chips, eggs shells, ashes, and took it out with us.


It only took the two of us 30 minutes to clean this up.

Two other vehicles used this site for parking the previous afternoon and evening. How could anyone who loves the outdoors not be compelled to clean up a mess like this?
Like the man said.... "it's not my trash.... but it is my planet" . I live in a rural area and I was out for a bicycle ride today... out in the middle of a beautiful road someone took the time to stop and dump a pile of trash and leave .... with what thought in their head? I can not imagine. It will never stop but with more of us being adults to their adolescent behavior maybe we will come out cleaner and they will have an epiphany.... ya nevah know.
I have started carrying one of those “gabber stick things” in my camper to pick up the trash around the campsite and in the fire ring but I never thought about dismantling the ring itself. That makes all the sense in the world! Ya want one? Your going to have to work for it!
But it does make me wonder if there will be fire burn spot all over…
Why I carry rubber gloves. Some stuff you just don't want to touch. As for dismantling fire rings it depends on where it is.
In my recent trip in Utah we stayed overnight in a couple of dispersed sites.
Perhaps even more distasteful than the trash/garbage was the dog crap.
One of the sites I counted 20+ piles in a 25-30 foot radius of our campsite.
Disgusting- and in the arid environment I imagine it stays for a long time.
People suck.
Lazy filthy disgusting people..... I am astounded by the upbringing of the newer generations. I would have gotten my ass kicked if I had left a scene like that.... of course I would not have ever done so but if I had.....
If possible l always dismantle fire rings at dispersed sites. I move the rocks as far as possible from the site and in different directions. I bury the ashes and smooth over the ground so no trace is visible.

I consider myself a fire ring vigilante and take pride in my work.
i ran across almost same mess up the north fork of john day a month ago. they did keep the entire mess piled into firepit. i keep gloves in truck for this cleanup. i didnt break down the fire ring though. i was trying to get out, and had 5 hr drive in front of me. next time.
I pull apart fire rings. The ones I demolished in the Walker Canyon last year have not been rebuilt (yet)
It was amazing the variety of garbage people left behind. I am not sure it would happen if not for the fire ring. I've pulled apart a lot of wilderness rings as well. I have no idea what people are finding to burn at 10,000 ft.
How could anyone who loves the outdoors not be compelled to clean up a mess like this?

These people are pigs.

I'm always amazed they need to build another fire ring, twenty feet from the other fire ring.
I'm especially annoyed when they build fires on bare rock, leaving scars that last decades.
I agree about fire rings they also make people think because somebody had a fire it is ok.
It seems that people are beginning to realize that outdoors usage and "comfort, fun, social"fire
are not ok.A few years back i made a post about being against social fires and got roasted by fellow
I made the post after coming back from a week in and around Kennedy Meadows where we ran across 2 deserted
camp sites with smoldering fires.
I'm sure any of our members of this form have also come across fires left unattended or abandoned.
At times we have ended up in spots that have limited sites only to find the ground so filthy with remains of fire that i would refuse to let our cat (could be your dog} to enjoy. And i have found pay camp sites just as bad.
My thoughts may be extreme but i would back the idea of zero camp fires in any area that has camp sites.

Yes i am old and grouchy.

Ski- I've often thought the people in Arizona have a special commandment about not using an existing fire ring. Everyone seems to need to build their own, even if there are already three or four in the immediate area. I suppose they build really special fire rings, praying over each individually placed stone. I think consistently dismantling them is a good idea.
Pogo said it a long time ago, "we have met the enemy and he is..."
SkyP said:
In my recent trip in Utah we stayed overnight in a couple of dispersed sites.
Perhaps even more distasteful than the trash/garbage was the dog crap.
One of the sites I counted 20+ piles in a 25-30 foot radius of our campsite.
Disgusting- and in the arid environment I imagine it stays for a long time.
People suck.
Earlier this year we took a trip down to BBNP and reserved a remote site down Old Ore Rd. which is a fairly remote and difficult trail for a TC. When we pulled into the site we noticed that behind it was a rise (small hills) with a saddle in the middle which was a perfect place to set a couple of chairs and enjoy the desert sunset.
So I grabbed a couple of chairs and started walking up the slope. When I crested the rise I saw maybe half a dozen little piles with white (and brown) TP sticking out of them. I was incensed!
I walked back down, got my shovel and proceeded to bury the messes. My wife walked up a bit later with drinks and asked “What was the shovel for?” I told her she didn’t want to know…
If its the kind of campsite where where an hour later someone will be rebuilding the fire ring then I say let it stay. In the kind of spots Ski is referencing then I say yes, dismantle it.

Solo I don't do campfires anymore. Campfires are a social thing and then I think a propane campfire fits the requirement just fine plus you don't get to bed smelling of smoke.
So, we have a Little Red Propane fire pit. And we love wood smoke fires. And, I note that we are only to camp in NF/BLM sites if they already have a firering. So, if we are dismantling fire rings, are we not making it more difficult to identify sites that are ok to use?
It is best to use a dispersed site that has been used previously, that does not mean marked with a ugly fire ring. Leave no trace. You can have a wood fire - plan - fire pan, bring your wood, carry everything out and all ash out.
I admit that Mrs. Ted and I have always enjoyed a camp fire and still do. But we have changed our habits over the last few years. Partially by becoming a little more informed and partially due to no choice. The no choice part is because most National Forests in the west simply ban them during the fire season. The informed part has come from knowing many of our fires are human caused and also from our frequent camping trips with the ski3pins.
So now we bring a gas fire pit on trips where we can have a fire. And we do still have wood fires, but only in established campgrounds with fire pits. But since we prefer to boondock, those are few and far between.
In regards to all the ignorance, bad behavior, trash and resource damage we've watched with growing concern in the backcountry, here's a term I heard from a friend today, "It's the Stupidity Pandemic."

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