The end of summer doesn’t necessarily mean the end of wildfire season. Depending on the weather, fires can still happen in the fall. So you still need to take care when you’re spending time outdoors, living in a dry area or passing through someplace with lots of natural fuel.
Many, if not most, wildfires are caused by humans, according to the National Park Service, so the good news is that many fires can be prevented. Usually it just takes a little common sense to prevent a lot of damage.
Here are five tips from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and other agencies that anyone can follow to minimize the risk of starting a wildfire:
1. Be smart with campfires and barbecues. Check if summertime campfire bans have been lifted, and only start a fire in an approved area as determined by the local authorities. Keep a shovel or rake and a bucket of water nearby in case you need to put out your fire, and never leave a smoldering fire unattended. This goes for discarding charcoal briquettes and using backyard firepits too.
2. Take care with your vehicles. Don’t park any vehicle in a dry, grassy area. Heat from exhaust systems can ignite the grass. And make sure recreational vehicles have operating spark arresters.
3. Dispose of cigarettes properly. Improperly discarded cigarettes can quickly start a blaze. So make sure it’s out, and, better yet, don’t litter. (Even better? Stop smoking!) In many areas, throwing burning material from your vehicle can result in a hefty fine.
4. Follow the rules for outdoor waste burning. Don’t burn anything unless you are well aware of the regulations in your city or county. And make sure the surrounding area is safe. Clear flammable materials within 30 feet of your house, remove dead vegetation and keep your lawn and trees well maintained.
5. Keep a close eye on your surroundings. Just because you’re being smart about wildfire prevention doesn’t mean everyone else is. If you see an unattended campfire, take steps to put it out. And if you see an out-of-control fire, call 911 or the local fire department.
Fall is still a great time to go camping and spend time outdoors, and taking a few precautions with fires and flammables can help keep you safe. Not to mention being cautious can prevent thousands or even millions of dollars in damage.
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