Wildfire Prevention: How You Can Help

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It’s wildfire season in many areas of the country.

Have you seen the devastating images on the web or on the news? The ones of burning wilderness, smoldering homes, and injured animals?

Counting My Chickens hit the road last month for an eight-state western adventure. Our travels took us to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Theodore Roosevelt National Parks, among many other breathtakingly beautiful places. But all along the way, we saw evidence of the devastation caused by wildfires. In fact, one day we basically drove through a forest fire.

Here are a few of the photos I snapped that day (I apologize for the photo quality; they were taken from a moving vehicle):

Wildfire Prevention: How You Can Help

Coming over Teton Pass, the haze visible over Jackson Hole isn’t fog; it’s smoke from a nearby forest fire.

Forest fire in Sublette County, Wyoming

As we drove south through Sublette County, Wyoming, on U.S. 189/191, we found ourselves right in the middle of the forest fire area.

Forest fire in Sublette County, Wyoming

Haze from the still-smoking hillsides obscured the mountains beyond.

Firefighter camp in Sublette County, Wyoming

The first of two firefighter base camps we passed south of the fire area. A tent city (not pictured) had been established in the field beyond the helicopters and emergency vehicles.

For at least 100 miles, smoke impaired our visibility and made our eyes burn and itch, even inside the closed vehicle. But forget my mild discomfort, I imagined what area residents were experiencing. Some of the homes and businesses we passed literally were in the line of fire.

Wildfires are awful, but they’re largely preventable.

Data shows that most wildfires are caused by human error and can be prevented. For example:

  • In 2014, lightening caused 7,933 wildfires, while human error caused 55,679 fires (as reported to the National Interagency Fire Center).
  • In 2015, 58,916 human-caused wildfires burned over 2 million acres.

In 2016, the Soberanes fire, in California, is a perfect example of a wildfire caused by human error. An abandoned campfire led to this fire, left by someone being careless and not thinking about the consequences.

And that’s why it’s so important to remember what are old friend Smokey the Bear always used to say:

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Smokey’s message about wildfire prevention

Smokey the Bear has been the center of the longest-running and one of the most successful PSA campaigns in our nation’s history. And his message is just as relevant today as it was in 1944. While the campaign has made progress, accidental, human-caused wildfires remain a critical environmental issue affecting the U.S.

And right now, California and Colorado are being devastated by wildfires!

Help with wildfire prevention by knowing the common and uncommon ways YOU could start a wildfire:

  • Metal chains hanging from a moving vehicle
  • Parking over tall, dry grass
  • Unattended burning of grass or debris
  • Equipment fires from lawnmowers, ATVs, or power equipment
  • Smoking
  • Improper disposal of cigarette butts
  • Unattended campfires
  • Fireworks
  • Improper disposal of fireplace or BBQ ashes

Then spread Smokey’s message:

Share this post or your own camping and fire prevention tips with your friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use the hashtags #SmokeyBearHug and #OnlyYou. (If you tag @smokey_bear on Twitter – he may just tweet you back!)

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This post is a public service announcement in connection with the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Association of State Foresters.

  • Sheila Langeslay

    This was a great post Deb and a good reminder. We were evacuated in 2011 for eight days. We had to cut the fence and let our horses go and hope they made it to the river to safety.
    Luckily folks we didn’t know cared for them but it was frightening. God Bless those brave firefighters.