You can prevent forest fires. Really!

If you've been anywhere near a computer, TV or newspaper lately you've heard about the devastating fires sweeping across the nation. Right now, at this very moment, there are thousands of acres of wilderness burning to the ground due to wildfires across 7 or more different states. There is a 300 acre fire in Oregon. Over 82,000 people have been evacuated and historical landmarks have been destroyed in the Blue Cut fire currently raging in California. There are at least a dozen other forest fires of various sizes racing across the land and consuming every thing in their we speak!

While some of these are caused by nature, like lightning strikes, more of them are caused by the carelessness or accidents of humans. We live on a clearing right in the middle of the woods – so as you can imagine, any kind of wildfire would be completely devastating to us! I can't even imagine looking out the window and seeing the woods glowing orange with fire. Or feeling the heat as it races towards me. *shudders* That's the stuff nightmares are made of!

Forest fire Styggkarret reserve

I believe that knowledge gives us power and it is so important to understand the safety and prevention of wildfires. They are damaging not only to the forest but can also be damaging to any homes and structures around them as well. You can't tell me it doesn't break your heart to think of all the frightened animals in the woods as a fire approaches! I know it kills me and I would hate to be the reason anyone or anything suffers through such a devastating event! After all, it really isn’t all that difficult to take steps to ensure that you are doing what it takes to prevent a wildfire.

We have to be SMART and take preventative action any time we are going to be outside! And while we all know that matches, burning cigarettes, and abandoned campfires are all potential threats for wildfire – there are MANY lesser known causes. Ones that you might be participating in and not even realize it.

Common ways YOU could unintentionally start a wildfire:

  •  Metal chains hanging from a moving vehicle
  •  Parking over tall, dry grass 
  •  Unattended debris burning
  •  Equipment fires such as from lawnmowers, ATVs, power equipment
  •  Smoking
  •  Unattended campfires
  •  Fireworks
  •  Carelessly discarding fireplace or BBQ ashes

Do you remember the Smokey Bear commercials? I remember the them from when I was a kid. He stared out at me from the television and while pointing straight at me stated "Only YOU can prevent forest fires!" What a message that sent to a younger me! Even though I was a suburbs kid and only saw the inside of a forest once a year, I still learned caution from those ads. Well, those and the free coloring books that were handed out by fire trucks at parades. I loved those books. 

Many year later when I moved into the woods myself, I found myself being overly cautious with my own fire pit. Well, overly cautious in the eyes of my husband that is! He never understood why I would sit out until the fire was cold instead of just heading in to bed. Or check on it every 5 minutes till I finally gave up on waiting and dragged the hose out to drench it. I just had to make sure it was out or I wouldn't be able to sleep. Maybe that's why he bought me that burn cage a couple years back? Hmmm, now it all makes sense. 

Any-whoo, coinciding with Smokey Bear’s 72nd birthday, the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), have launched a new series of public service advertisements (PSAs) created to help prevent wildfires nationwide by increasing awareness about less commonly known fire starts:

When camping, take care when using and fueling lanterns, stoves, and heaters. Make sure lighting and heating devices are cool before refueling. Avoid spilling flammable liquids and store fuel away from appliances.

Do not discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials from moving vehicles, or anywhere on park grounds. Be certain to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them.

Follow local ordinances when burning yard waste. Avoid backyard burning in windy conditions, and keep a shovel, water, and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check. Remove all flammables from yard when burning.

Even though most of us don’t behave this way intentionally, each year we learn of devastating wildfires caused by careless behavior which can impact millions of acres of forest and thousands of homes. Although four out of five wildfires are started by people, nature is usually more than happy to help fan the flames.

How else can you help? Be smart when you go outdoors! Show your commitment to wildfire prevention. Join me in taking the Smokey Bear Pledge!

  • To use caution and common sense before lighting any fire.
  • To understand that any fire I or my friends create could become a wildfire.
  • To understand and practice proper guidelines whenever I or my friends create a fire outdoors.
  • To never, ever leave any fire unattended.
  • To make sure any fire that I or my friends create is properly and completely extinguished before moving on.
  • To properly extinguish and discard of smoking materials.
  • To be aware of my surroundings and be careful when operating equipment during periods of dry or hot weather.
  • To speak up and step in when I see someone in danger of starting a wildfire.

I know that many of you visit the woods for your vacations, but lots of us call the woods home. Oh, and the countless forest creatures that share these woods with us. We're lucky to have had bears, deer, raccoons, opossums, groundhogs, rabbits, skunks, porcupines and even fishers visit our little clearing in the woods. 

I have a friendly squirrel that likes to hang upside down on the suet cakes for snack time in the winter! My hummingbird feeder is always busy and I even enjoy watching the bats fly overhead at dusk every night. I would hate to see anything happen to them. On behalf of myself and my furred and feathered friends in the woods....please exercise caution and do the right things to help prevent forest fires!


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