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With a mild winter in many areas of the country, and a hot start to the summer, forest fire season is upon us. During this time many people face hazy air, camp fire bans, or even evacuations. It is important to prevent and prepare during the summer fire season.
The key to keeping families safe is to prepare for whichever of Mother Nature’s forces may be at play, like dry and windy conditions or insect infestations (such as that of the Mountain Pine Beetle).
Some fires have natural causes, but people cause an overwhelming number (up to 97 percent) of brush, grass and forest fires. Most of these fires are accidental and are due to careless disposal of hot embers, ash or cigarettes.
People love to head to the open lands in the summer, and build fires for light and warmth at night. Following these steps will help protect our lands from the scarring of wild fires.
1. Pick Your Spot Wisely: Use existing fire circles or fire pits if available. Do not build a fire in dry or windy conditions, especially if the area you are in prohibits fires. Build fires at least 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, or other flammable materials.
2. Prepare Your Pit: Choose a spot for your campfire that is downwind from your tent and gear, and protected from wind gusts. Clear a 10 foot wide diameter area around your site, and make sure there are no limbs or branches hanging over your pit. Always circle the pit with rocks.
3. Build A Campfire: Once you have a prepared pit, you are ready to have the campfire. It is recommended to use three types of wood. Tinder, which is made of small twigs, dry leaves or grass, will get the fire started initially. Kindling, consisting of twigs smaller than 1inch around, will help to light the larger pieces of wood. Fuel, which is the large pieces of wood, will provide the heat and majority of the flames once the tinder and kindling are burned up.
4. Extinguish the Fire: Campers need to properly maintain and extinguish campfires so that future campers can do the same. If possible, let the campfire burn down to ashes. Pour water on the fire to drown all embers, not just the red ones. Once this is done, stir with a shovel and stir everything in the fire pit.
How does the nation combat fires? The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho, is the nation’s support center for wild land firefighting. NIFC is responsible for setting the National Preparedness Level. The preparedness level helps to assure that firefighting resources are ready to respond to new incidents. Fuel and weather conditions, fire activity and resource availability dictate the preparedness level. The current national fire preparedness level is 3 of 5. Preparedness level 3 means that two or more geographic areas are experiencing wild land or prescribed fire activities requiring a major commitment of national resources. More information is also available at Firewise.org.
Find out how to properly build and put out a campfire here with the Smokey the Bear App.