While some wildfires are caused by natural events like lightning or volcanic flows, the National Park Service reports that more than 90% are caused by some form of human activity. By taking special precautions, especially when in high fire danger areas, we can collectively limit the damage to life and property caused by these devastating events. Here are some basic fire prevention tips to remember when spending time in nature.
Report a fire immediately. Even if it appears to be a controlled burn or is being actively managed by someone. You may not be able to tell if a prescribed burn is actually under control or if bystanders are trying to put out the fire. Better to be safe than sorry.
Never dispose of cigarettes, cigars, matches, or other smoking materials in any manner besides using an approved firebox. Always extinguish cigarettes fully before disposal, and never throw used cigarettes or matches from a moving vehicle.
Be careful when camping. Lanterns, portable heaters, and stoves can easily ignite small fires, especially if you’re cooking with grease or using a propane fuel source. Store fuel away from the heat source and always clear a cooking area that is free from dried brush or grass.
Tips for Evacuating
You can do everything within your control to prevent wildfires, but sometimes another person’s mistake becomes your emergency. If you are caught in a situation where you must evacuate, follow the tips below:
- Listen to fire or wildlife authorities – they’ve been through this before and know the proper protocol
- Create an evacuation route ahead of time and keep emergency supplies on hand
- Ditch the flip flops and put on sturdy shoes, a long sleeve shirt, and pants
- If you’re at home, close all windows and vents and turn off the gas line to the house
- Fill up garbage cans, pools, bathtubs, etc. with water to discourage errant flames
If You Must Flee
You may not be able to plan a controlled evacuation, especially if you’re out in the woods, so keep the following tips in mind:
- Find a body of water that can shelter you and your family – you’ll never outrun a forest fire
- Cover your mouth with a moist cloth and breathe through it to prevent lung damage if on dry land
- Saturate your clothes with water or cover yourself with a dampened blanket to minimize the chances of burns
- Stay low to the ground, find areas with little to no vegetation, and hunker down until the fire passes
While the odds of getting trapped behind the lines of a wildfire are slim, there is little way to predict when a fire will break out. If you’re camping, hiking, or sightseeing in a fire-prone area, keep these wildfire safety tips in mind when you’re enjoying our beautiful natural areas. This will ensure that you’re ready to act if the unthinkable were to happen.