Taking a Cue From Smokey: How to Prevent Wildfires While Camping

Reynolds Creek Fire, Glacier National Park (2015)

The aftermath of Reynolds Creek Wildfire, as seen from the Going to the Sun Road.

August is well known as wildfire season and over 100 wildfires are currently burning across the nation, including a devastating one in Warm Springs, Oregon with a 90+ square mile blaze displacing Oregonians, as well as 75+ square mile wildfire in Eastern Oregon, officially named our country’s “top priority,” after destroying 36 homes and currently endangering 500 others.

There are many natural wildfires that take place that actually help evolve our ecosystems, but unfortunately, there are human-caused blazes that negatively impact our environment, as well as our communities. It’s important to let the former run a controlled course, and with the latter, it’s vital to not only put it out as soon as possible, but to prevent it entirely.

As you make plans to enjoy the last of your summer with hiking, backpacking, and camping, keep the following in mind:

– Never start a campfire, not even small ones, during fire bans and/or while the fire danger is marked as “extreme.” FYI, Oregon State Parks have officially banned all campfires.

– However, cooking on butane tanks is fine. Just cook carefully on stable surfaces to prevent knocking a lit stove over and avoid spilling flammable materials.

– If campfires are approved, have one in a designated area and never leave it unattended.

– Do not burn weird materials, like your trash. Not only is it bad to breath in, but it can cause unexpected reactions which can in turn cause a wildfire.

– When you’re ready to hit the hay or peace out of your campsite, it’s CRUCIAL that you completely extinguish the fire. Do this by dousing the fire with water and stirring it into the ashes until cool. Even the tiniest glowing fleck of ember can cause an unstoppable wildfire.

– Do not flick your dumb cigarette butts onto the ground!! Dispose of them in an ash tray, a beer can, a cup, or what have you. If you must smoke, then you must get rid of them properly. I was baffled at the amount of tourists smoking on the side of the Going to the Sun Road, right after driving pass the human-caused Reynolds Creek Fire. I hope they didn’t toss ’em!

– If you’re car camping, do not park your vehicle over dry grass. A hot exhaust can spark a flame!

If you start a fire or spot a fire (or even suspicious smoke) in the wilderness, dial 911 or the local fire department to report it. When a wildfire is reported within its beginning stages, it has a better shot of being extinguished or properly handled with little damage.

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