Fire danger is a serious threat to much of the country. Alaska, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Washington and many more states are currently battling wildfires. While lightning and other natural causes are responsible for some of these fires, human error can be blamed for many. Precaution could save tens of thousands of acres and more importantly, lives.
Klamath River, California has about 200 residents. Now most of this small town is gone. People’s homes and businesses have burned due to a wildfire that spread into town. Thousands of people in the region have or may have to evacuate. Worst of all at least four lives have been lost.
Sadly, we hear stories like this each year. This is not just a California problem. Across the country, and right here in the Midwest, we are dealing with drought conditions. Making the potential for wildfires high. This comes at a time when we like to recreate outside. Using extra precaution is a must.
Campfires are a highlight of summer. Roasting marshmallows and making s’mores are experiences every kid should enjoy. During camping trips, or just out in the backyard, sitting around a campfire is great way to bring people together to talk and laugh and enjoy relaxing downtime away from the hustle of everyday life. Doing so responsibly is the key. Each year, campfires that get out of control turn into devastating wildfires.
Campfires are not the only manmade ways wildfires are started. Burning leaves or other backyard debris is also dangerous during dry conditions. Some people still burn trash. Doing so can lead to spreading fire. One way to start a wildfire some may not be aware of is driving motorized vehicles in dry vegetation. The heat from under a truck or ATV can ignite leaves or grass.
As we recreate through the end of summer and into fall, we must be very careful to make sure we are not doing anything to cause a wildfire. Wildfires destroy homes, businesses, important wildlife habitat, and worst of all kill people. The economic impacts are huge. Although there is no exact data on the financial impact of wildfire collectively across the country, a study done in California estimates the 2018 wildfires in the state cost approximately $148.5 billion.
As we travel to camp and enjoy ourselves outdoors, we must be cautious. Wildfires are more prevalent in the West, but the Midwest is also susceptible. Fire danger increases in hot and dry weather, especially when it’s windy. Embers and ashes picked up by the wind can travel far and fast, turning a campfire into a wildfire.
“We are beginning to see seasonal drought conditions across much of the state. Intermittent rainfall in some areas hasn’t been enough to lessen those conditions,” said Paul Rogers, fire prevention specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “We urge residents and visitors to use caution when burning.”
Keep these safety tips from the Michigan DNR in mind when you’re burning:
- Keep campfires or bonfires contained in a pit or ring and make sure you put them out thoroughly before leaving for the night. Douse the fire with water, stir the ashes and douse again.
- Never leave any fire — including hot coals — unattended.
- Always keep a hose or other water source nearby when burning.
- Prevent sparks. Keep trailer chains from dragging; don’t park hot equipment on dry grass.
- Do not shoot fireworks into the woods, dry grass or shrubs.
- Do not burn plastic, hazardous materials, foam or other household trash. This can release dangerous chemicals into the air.
- You can use a burn barrel with a screen on top to burn paper, leaves and natural materials.
Remember what Smokey Bear says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”
See you down the trail…
Pic: When recreating outdoors, use care and caution to help prevent wildfires.
For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on www.driftwoodoutdoors.com or anywhere podcasts are streamed.