Camp Fire USA is a nationwide youth organization that began on March 17, 1910 as Camp Fire Girls. The organization has been co-ed since 1975 and has youth from pre-kindergarten through age 21. For a time it was known as just Camp Fire and then as Camp Fire Boys and Girls as more boys joined the organization.
The organizational history and the story of the origins of Camp Fire are complex, but the short version would be that Camp Fire Girls was founded in 1910 by some of the same people who founded Boy Scouts of America. Luther Gulick and his wife Charlotte Vetter Gulick are credited as "official founders" of Camp Fire Girls.
In 1913, the "Blue Bird" program was introduced for younger girls and offered exploration of ideas and creative play built around family and community life. In 1989 the "Blue Bird" level became the "Starflight" level.
In 1969, Camp Fire Girls were allowed to be "Participants" in BSA's Explorer Posts (for boys 14 and older). This ended in 1971, when the BSA made Explorers a co-ed program. In 1975, Camp Fire went co-ed as well and would soon rename itself "Camp Fire Boys and Girls". In 2001, it adopted its current name of "Camp Fire USA".
The group's colors are red, white, and blue.
Beginning in sixth grade, Camp Fire youth are eligible to make and wear ceremonial attire, often gowns or tunics, which are worn only at Camp Fire ceremonials. The ceremonial attire historically was made of cloth resembling deerskin in the style of a Native American gown. Now a youth may choose any style of ceremonial attire, particularly if it honors the ethnic background to which the youth can trace his or her background or toward which he or she has an affinity. This attire can include tunics, kimonos, Scandinavian skirts/aprons, etc. The ceremonial attire is decorated with honor beads, earned emblems, and other personal items the youth chooses. Sometimes the youth's symbolgram is used on the gown/tunic. The symbolgram is a symbol created by the youth to represent him/herself.
Youth are able to earn beads, while completing projects on the “Camp Fire Trails," as well as emblems. (In the past, once the participant earned ten of one type of bead, he or she was awarded a larger one of the same type to represent the ten smaller ones.) The beads have had various names over the years. By 2006, there was one bead for each of the Camp Fire Trails, a purple bead for special projects, and a lime green bead for the middle school-aged youth in the Discovery Club level.
The highest youth award is the "Wohelo Award." A youth may apply for the award after completing (1) four major, specified, long-term projects called Reflections, and (2) Three self-selected projects, called Advocacies, dealing an area of concern of the youth member's choosing. One of which must be to Camp Fire USA, and one cannot be to Camp Fire. The third can be in either Camp Fire or outside of Camp Fire USA. Each of the three Advocacies must involve leading, teaching, serving, and speaking out. The third area of work for a Camp Fire Wohelo Award is to know Camp Fire USA. Each youth is required to read the History of Camp Fire, tour the office in their council, or other approved method of understanding the services Camp Fire provides. Some councils additionally believe that if one believes in Camp Fire one supports it, and require an additional participation on the council's annual fundraisers such as the annual candy fundraiser.
In reference to the words "Worship God", the organization has clarified that, "At no time in the organization's history has a Camp Fire member been asked to take any oath or make any promise. The Camp Fire law is a desire or a goal, not an oath. . . . 'It is not law that other people can demand you obey; that is, it is not law from without — it is law from the heart. It commands only those who seek to follow. It is opportunity, not obligation. It is an open road leading to the beautiful country where you live, rather than chains which would bind or limit your freedom.'" Camp Fire USA explicitly welcomes "children, youth and adults regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation or other aspect of diversity."
Camp Fire USA is inclusive, open to all youth of any race, creed, religion, gender, national origin, economic status, and sexual orientation.