By Montana Grant

Posted: July 18, 2021

Smokey the Bear has been preaching fire safety for generations. Sadly, many humans never get the hint. Humans continue to be the Number One cause of forest fires. In the US alone, we have over 60,000 fires annually that burn over 2.5 million acres! 84% of these fires are human caused.

Human caused fires often begin with campfires. Recreational campfires end up out of control from the weather, being unattended, too close to liquid or other fuels, no fire rings, or fires not properly extinguished. There are many ways to protect against fires.

Consider the location. Wires, branches, dry fuels, wind currents, etc.

Make a fire pit at least 6 inches deep and 2 feet wide. Create a fire ring of rocks or a safe barrier.

Keep water buckets and a shovel/rake nearby.

Use the rake to clear a safety zone of at least 25 feet.

Do not burn the trash. It often ignites and floats away.

Keep your fire to a minimum. You do not need a huge bonfire.

Never leave a fire unattended

Keep the wood pile away from the fire

Do not play with fire

Extinguish a fire completely. You should be able to run your hands through the coals

There are many other ways the Humans start forest fires. Grills, lanterns, heaters, and wood stoves all have issues. Railroads seem to have a knack for starting fires along tracks. Most camping gear is not fireproof. It may be fire resistant or be coated with a fire retardant but… everything camping can burn. Mosquito coils can generate great heat in a tent. A broken lantern or leaking fuel cell can ignite.

Smoking is a huge issue. A smoldering butt, tossed onto the side of a road or on the forests floor is always a danger. Fireworks can also start huge fires.

Burn dry wood. Wet wood tends to smoke and smolder. Wood coated in lacquers, paints, or stains tends to sputter and burn more uncontrollably.

Driving hot motorized vehicles across a dry area can ignite grasses quickly. Some cultures burn areas as a ritual or for fire prevention. Farmers burn ditches and grassy areas. Others burn junk and trash. An unannounced breeze can immediately whip the fire into a frenzy.

Arson is also a common way that fires begin. Equipment fires are also an issue. If a tractor or overheated motor flames on, explosions can spread the fire quickly.

When having a fire, always have a shovel/ rake, and some water buckets on hand. An all-purpose fire extinguisher is a great idea. These also serve as great critter controls. Have fire fighting buckets or gear around areas where the fire may begin.

Fire blankets are essential. Remember that people can also catch on fire. Hair and clothing can flare up in a hurry. Rolling a burn victim in a fire blanket could save their life.  911 should be called immediately.

Follow Smokey’s rules and help protect our forests and grasslands.

Montana Grant