How YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires

Ah, Smokey Bear. Always looking out for our best interests.

Arid mountain temperatures grant fires the ability to blaze out of control in no time, and they can be a scary sight once that happens. Though it’s all a part of the natural rebuilding process, forest fires become an imminent threat to humans and wildlife when the weather starts warming up.

This is why you should know the signs to look for and what actions to take when visiting our beloved forests.

Fire Danger Levels

Signs like the one posted above appear on the side of the road around many of the country’s forests and act as an indicator of fire potential and severity. According to the United States Forest Service, the levels are:

Low (Green) – Only major heat sources will be able to start a fire and fuels (grass, twigs) won’t ignite from tiny sparks. The flames don’t spread well and controlling them is easy. Use the same caution as you would a child’s birthday party.

Moderate (Blue) – Fires are relatively easy to contain but can start from most accidental causes. Keep your distance just to be safe.

High (Yellow) – Fires start and spread quickly from just about anything. Campfires and other sources of fire can escape, so keep an eye on them. As long as fires are put out early, they are easy to control.

Extreme (Red) – Any fire is considered serious as it spreads hot and fast and can last for days. Monitor the situation and don’t light any of your own flames because they could be impossible to control.

These warnings appear when the land is usually susceptible to forest fires, but there are general rules by which everyone should abide.

Do Your Part

Fires can start from a number of manmade causes and natural ones, such as lightning or spontaneous combustion. Since we have the power to prevent forest fires, we have a responsibility to do our part.

  • Only burn natural sources. Adding any fuel, lighter fluid or treated wood is a recipe for disaster.
  • Keep fires at least 50 feet away from other flammable objects and most man-made structures, such as cabins or tents.
  • Don’t leave a campsite or any source of fire without knowing for a fact that you’ve extinguished the last flame.
  • Have a way to put out the fire in case it burns out of control, such as a hose, a shovel for piling on dirt, a fire extinguisher, or a few gallons of water.
  • Avoid starting fires when it’s windy.
  • If you smoke, do so on a dirt or paved path. Stand in one spot (so ashes don’t fall while walking) and make sure the cigarette butt is completely out when you’re done.
  • Always check with the local park or forest authorities about restrictions and permits regarding burn bans. And make sure you have the emergency number.

His appearance has changed over the decades, but Smokey Bear is still encouraging people to prevent wildfires with helpful videos and tips:

We can enjoy a nature hike much more when the weather gets warmer, but let’s not forget about the dangers of forest fires and how our actions can affect the landscape.

Have any other tips for us for handling or preventing forests? Let us know in the comments!

Corey is a writer from Overland Park, KS, and has been with Global Discovery Vacations since September 2013. Once a sportswriter, he traveled the country and became proficient in airport security line etiquette and leaving items in hotel rooms.