With wildfires already taking place in Nebraska this year, a number burning in Colorado out our backdoor and in several other western states, plus the intense heat expected to continue and the extremely dry conditions to persist over much of Nebraska this summer, it’s critical to be what I call wildfire-wise in the outdoors! In other words, you don’t want you to be the person who starts a wildfire when you’re having fun camping, backpacking, picnicking, fishing, scouting for the hunting seasons, etc. Wildfire prevention remains one of the most critical environmental issues affecting our country. Many Americans believe that lightning starts most wildfires. In fact, on average, 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by people. The principle causes are campfires left unattended, debris burning on windy days, arson, careless discarding of smoking materials or BBQ coals, and operating equipment without spark arrestors. So, all that being said, here are some easy to remember tips to help you be wildfire-wise. Only you can prevent wildfires!
*First and foremost, any and all use of combustible materials that could ignite a wildfire must conform to any fire bans issued. If it’s hot and dry in the countryside and no such ban has been issued, consider eliminating or being extra careful with with everything from campfires to charcoal grills to yes, your 4th of July fireworks! Keep tabs on fire danger in Nebraska by going here: http://nfs-0938.unl.edu/NebraskaFireDanger/default.aspx
*Secondly, no smoking! You shouldn’t be smoking anyway, plain and simple – it’s not good for your health! If you see someone smoking, remind them that their smoking materials must be disposed of safely.
*Thirdly, no driving or parking vehicles in dry grass or vegetation. Stay on established roads, trails and parking areas. Dry vegetation that comes into contact with a vehicle’s hot catalytic converter and exhaust systems can spark a fire quickly.
*And finally, all of us heading outdoors should carry several inexpensive fire fighting aids to be able to put out small fires before they get out of control. Equipment that’s as simple as a shovel, bucket, couple jugs of water and a small fire extinguisher may make the difference. You could even add a few burlap sacks. Wet burlap sacks or bags can be used to beat out small fires. Also, be prepared to use your mobile device or cell phone to call 911 in the event you see a fire burning or observe smoke.
Preparation and awareness are key when it comes to preventing destructive wildfires! You can get much more information about wildland fire protection by visiting the Nebraska Forest Service’s website: http://www.nfs.unl.edu/program-wildlandfireprotection.asp
Thanks for being wildfire-wise and please be safe out there!