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DIY: How to Make a Fake Campfire

Here’s a quick way to decorate for your next camp-themed event or just add the cozy touch of a campfire without any of the mess, maintenance, or headache.

This faux campfire is a pretty darn convincing copy of a campfire burning low with reddish-orange embers, but you won’t have to worry about any of the typical fire-pit concerns like calculating safe distances, overheating guests, or watching young guests with an eagle eye. Even better- this faux firepit can even be safely set up indoors!

With no smoke and no real file, this faux campfire decoration takes just a few minutes and guarantees “wow’s” from your guests.

How to make a fake campfire for children's parties, indoor camping, or theater productions

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Campfire Supplies

  1. A real firepit, metal washtub, or other vessel for your “fire”.
  2. Orange Flickering String Lights available from Amazon or occasionally at Halloween or Christmas specialty stores. (Get the plug-in style here, or solar-powered LED lights for using your faux firepit anywhere)
  3. Real Sticks & Small Logs (remember the effect is created by light shining through the wood, so don’t use pieces that are too large or layer them too deep)
  4. TIP: Use half-burned logs from a real campfire for an even more realistic effect.
how to build a fake campfire indoors

How to Build the Faux Campfire

Locate your pit or bucket where you want your campfire and consider your power supply. If you are plugging your lights into a wall outlet, place your pit within cord reach of an outlet. For use beyond the reach of an extension cord or to eliminate the hassle of taping down electrical cords so they don’t trip guests, you can use solar-powered lights or a portable AC power source, tucked in the bottom of your fake campfire, to eliminate the need for a cord extending to an outlet.

Next, place the orange flickering lights in the bottom of your firepit or bucket. You’ll want to spread them out across the bottom of the pit to create a more realistic look.

The third and final step is arranging the sticks or logs over the orange flickering “campfire” lights. This is where you’ll want to slow down and be intentional about your arrangement. Use enough sticks to partially conceal the fact that your flames aren’t actual flames, but allow enough light through that it looks like a real campfire glowing with hot embers.

Faux Campfire Flickering Lights
photo by grandin road

This method works great for constructing a “fire” for kids parties, such as camp themed parties or pirate themed parties. By tweaking this tutorial just a little, you can create cozy seasonal accents for Christmas, building-code compliant “fires” for your wedding reception, or create spooky witch’s cauldron-heating faux-flames for Halloween haunted houses.

You can even tuck a fog machine nearby to add another element of realism to your DIY fake campfire.

Alternate Ways to DIY a Fake Fire

There are many ways to make a fake campfire ranging from cute (like hand-sewn felt logs and fire) to borderline tacky (like neon red and yellow streamers with an electric fan to animate them), but in this article, I demonstrate how to make a realistic fake campfire using a faux firepit look. Done well, this fake campfire actually looks real until closely inspected.

Because it looks real, it fits into the decor in many different event spaces, wedding venues, etc. This fake campfire doesn’t involve an open flame so it can also be used indoors, inside a home, in the classroom, on stage, etc.

What to use for logs in a fake campfire?

In the fake campfire shown here, real wood is used to help create a realistic-looking fake fire. For best results, use varying thicknesses of wood logs and twigs. If you only use large logs in your fire pit, your fire make look less realistic. A mixture of different types of wood looks more like a campfire and, more importantly, the smaller pieces of wood help hide the orange lights below. Varying sizes of logs and twigs filter the light through just like a real campfire that’s burning down to embers.

Customizing this Faux Fire for a Stage Prop

Follow the instructions above to create a realistic fake fire stage prop- with one customization: Choose wood with bark still securely attached then use liquid nails or an epoxy-based glue (both glues with a thick, “gloopy” consistency that will adhere well to uneven bark) to glue the campfire together. Moving your campfire in one solid glued-together piece instead of a few dozen pieces of wood will make scene changes fast, quiet, and easy.

Making a Fake campfire for Halloween decorations

Fake campfires and fake fire pits are perfect for Halloween. On Halloween night, we are often constantly distracted and have decorations or flowing garments all over the place- these elements combine to make having an open flame a really bad idea!

Using this fake campfire as part of your Halloween decor can help create spookiness, subtle mood lighting, and authentic decor without any of the risk of open flames. Fake flames created with orange flickering electric lights are cool to the touch and can even help create dramatic scenes for haunted houses and themed candy handing-out (such as the illusion of “reaching into the fire” to retrieve trick-or-treater’s candy).

Building a Kid-Safe Fake Fire Pit

There’s nothing like ending a long day outdoors around a fire pit. There, families can gather, talk, and relax. Unfortunately, for families with young kids, a fire pit can be anything but relaxing. Someone – and often, everyone – has to monitor kids and fire constantly to make sure that children are not in danger from the fire.

If you want the aesthetic of a cozy fire pit (and, one that can be enjoyed indoors, on a covered deck, or even in a garage!) with no worries about an open fire, consider this realistic fake fire pit that uses a real fire pit, real wood, and flickering orange electric lights to create all the coziness of a fire pit burnt down to embers with none of the risk of open flame, carbon monoxide, or smoke.

OBSERVE GENERAL SAFETY – This tutorial, which places LED lights in close proximity to wood in a metal vessel should be generally safe, but as always, common sense should be used, the project should be monitored to ensure that lights are working properly and remain cool, and if any signs of heat, spark, or unusual smells are noticed, the project should be disassembled immediately.

Elaine Long

Monday 30th of October 2023

I did this years ago using a chimnet, red flashing lights.

Lindsayanne Brenner

Thursday 16th of November 2023

Sounds awesome! I'd love to see how it turned out.