A plea to take care of our forests and extinguish campfires

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By Nanci Dixon
Remember what Smokey Bear always says: “Only you can prevent forest fires!”? It pertains to wildfires, too, particularly when caused by campfires.

Twyla M. posted this in the Free Campgrounds Facebook group and it is worth repeating here: “Please, please take care of our forests!!! I am sharing (this notice) again to make sure this reaches everyone that it can. We need to be good stewards of our lands. Some don’t know, understand, or some may think they are putting them out but don’t go the extra steps to make the fires dead. I am sure this is not just happening in this forest either.”

U.S. Forest Service Notice: Caribou-Targhee National Forest
August 21, 2020

“It comes as no surprise that recreation is exploding on public lands and people are flocking to the outdoors. However, with the unprecedented level of use, various problems are starting to emerge, campgrounds are at capacity, trash continues to accumulate and patience is thinning as boat ramps remain congested and dispersed sites always seem to be full. 

“With the increase in use, fire officials are seeing an increase in abandoned campfires throughout the region. Conditions in the area are dry and a fire may start easily, spread quickly and burn intensely. Everyone is asked to practice heightened fire safety at all times. This week firefighters responded to two small fires caused by abandoned campfires: one in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness, in an area where campfires are prohibited, and another just north of Kilgore.

“Eastern Idaho Interagency Fire personnel have extinguished over 60 unattended or abandoned campfires so far this summer. Abandoned campfires can quickly escalate into wildfires. Where campfires are allowed, it is extremely important that they are completely extinguished and cold to the touch before campers leave their site. Visitors should never leave a fire unattended and can be held liable for suppression costs if their campfire becomes a wildfire. During times of elevated fire danger, a campfire is not encouraged.

“With the devastation of the current fire situation in California, Oregon and spreading to other western states let’s all remember that we can prevent forest fires. Make sure the fire is dead, stir it around and check for embers or smoke. Think it is out? Put your hand on or over it. If warm, it is still possible of igniting and spreading more devastation to our forests, cities and costing lives.”

Campfire safety

Chris Dougherty shared some helpful campfire safety advice with RV Travel:

As you’re enjoying your campfire, remember these safety tips:
• Once you have a strong fire going, add larger pieces of dry wood to keep it burning steadily.
• Keep your fire to a manageable size.
• Make sure children and pets are supervised when near the fire.
• Never leave your campfire unattended.
• Never cut live trees or branches from live trees.

When you’re ready to put out your fire and call it a night, follow these guidelines:
• Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
• Pour lots of water on the fire; drown ALL embers, not just the red ones.
• Pour until hissing sound stops.
• Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
• Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
• Stir and make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch.

If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool. Remember: Do NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.

REMEMBER: If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave!

Here are some more helpful campfire tips.

##RVT967

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