About Camping and Wildfire Safety
This experience comes from guest author Michael Bourke who had to be way too persistent to get me to post this (translation: sometimes I suck, sorry Michael)
3 Things You Need to Know About Camping and Wildfire Safety
As we continue to hear stories about wildfires burning thousands of acres and people being the cause of most of them, it is imperative that campers and hikers know exactly how to be safe while spending time outdoors. Everyone, from novice to seasoned campers, needs to keep camping and wildfire safety in mind every time you spend time in nature. You need to know how to prevent wildfires and what to do should you be caught in one.
1. Understand Your Risk Before You Plan a Camping Trip
As National Geographic points out, more than 100,000 wildfires devastate between four and five million acres of U.S. land each year, with as many as nine million acres being destroyed in a single year. Before you plan your next camping trip, you need to be aware of where wildfires already are burning.
You also need to know whether you are planning to trek to a wildfire-prone area. Knowing your risk, including understanding when the potential for fires is the highest, such as during droughts or other dry conditions, is one of the most critical wildfire safety tips you can follow.
Before making plans to hike or camp, contact the office at the national park, state park, or another campsite you want to visit. Call ahead to reserve your spot and then call again immediately before your trip to ask about wildfire risk or whether there are any wildfires in the area. Also, ask about the site's campfire rules and regulations and do not start a fire under any circumstances if it is prohibited during your stay.
2. Follow Campfire Safety Rules at All Times
Even if you are camping in an area with a low risk of wildfire, or if you are camping during the winter and there is snow on the ground, you need to do your part to prevent a wildfire from starting. Approximately 90% of wildfires are started by people, and you need to take campfire responsibility seriously and follow campfire safety rules at all times.
- Never build a campfire in an area where it is prohibited
- Never build a campfire in hazardous, dry conditions
- Use an existing fire ring or pit whenever possible
- If you need to dig a pit, choose a spot at least 15 feet from tents, foliage, and other flammable objects
- Choose an open, level location away from fire fuel like logs, brush, or dry leaves
- Choose a spot that is protected from wind gusts
- Never build a fire beneath low-hanging branches
- Clear a 10-foot-diameter area around your campfire site; remove grass, twigs, leaves, and firewood
- Encircle your pit with rocks
- Keep your fire small and under control; only build a fire as large as you need
- Don't burn dangerous items such as aerosol cans, pressurized containers, glass, or aluminum cans
- Never leave your campfire unattended and supervise children and pets near the fire at all times
- Allow the wood to burn completely to ash and then pour lots of water on the fire
- Pour water until the hissing stops and drown all embers, not just the red ones
- Use dirt or sand if you do not have water; stir it into the embers with a shovel to bury the fire
- Scrape remaining sticks and logs to remove embers and ensure none is exposed or still smoldering
- Add water, dirt, or sand until the fire is cool
- If the fire is too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave
3. Dress and Pack Appropriately for the Weather
If you plan to camp during the winter, you especially need to dress and pack appropriately for the weather to ensure your safety. Winter campers often build campfires for warmth or cooking, so you need to be sure that your outerwear is not flammable. Wool is an ideal material because it is a fire-resistant natural material.
Keep in mind that mittens and hats also can be flammable, so consider wearing leather or wool; it's also important to take spare sets along to avoid frostbite. Even winter campers need to keep their fires small and manageable and no closer than 15 feet to the tent to prevent wildfires. Also, be sure never to start a fire inside your tent, regardless of how cold it is when you are camping.
You have the power to prevent wildfires if you understand the risk and follow campfire safety rules at all times. You also need to know the risk of wildfire in your camping area and be sure to dress and pack appropriately to ensure your safety and well-being at all times.
Image via Pixabay by skeeze
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