Photo: During August 2022, 15 soldiers from the Massachusetts Army National Guard 179th and 180th Engineer Detachments fought an ongoing fire near Rockport.
It’s a sad fact, but about 90% of all wildfires are caused by humans, and virtually all of those are preventable, according to federal statistics.
A wildfire is an unplanned fire; many are lightning-caused fires, but others are human-caused as well as fires that escape a prescribed (or controlled) burn. Although federal and state agencies are responsible for wildland fire management, campers, hikers, hunters, outdoors enthusiasts and backyard fun-seekers are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing wildfire.
The basics of prevention begin with being aware of fire risks and taking steps to stay alert to guide your outdoors activities to prevent wildfires.
It is vital to maintain an awareness of weather and drought conditions, especially when it’s windy and dry. Avoid activity known to start a fire—campfires, operating equipment that could induce sparks, off-roading or burning debris.
Always build a campfire in an open location after clearing the area of logs, brush, leaves, needles, and scrape down to bare earth before building and lighting the fire. Stay with it as it burns and extinguish it completely. Douse it with water, stir, and douse again until cold to the touch before leaving the area.
If you’re off-roading, remember your vehicle’s exhaust can reach temperatures over 1000 degrees. Be aware where you park and avoid dry grass. Carry a shovel, bucket, water supply and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle.
Make sure you don’t operate equipment that produces sparks over dry vegetation.
During summer holidays take care with fireworks. They are great fun, but be sure to check local, city, state and federal regulations before using them. Nearly 20,000 reported fires are started by fireworks annually, and handling them accounts for the large number of burns and injuries seen in emergency rooms, especially around July 4.
It’s easy to adapt and avoid injuries. Glow sticks and red, white and blue silly string are safe alternatives.
The Firearms Industry Trade Association reminds outdoor recreationists, target shooters and hunters to take precautions so they won’t accidentally ignite a wildfire.
In 2022, the National Interagency Fire Center reports there were 68,988 wildfires compared to 58,985 wildfires reported in 2021. Those fires consumed 7,577,183 acres nationally in 2022, compared to 7,125,643 acres consumed in 2021.
“After seeing the terrible destruction and heartbreak wildfires can cause, no one would want to accidentally be the cause of one,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF president and CEO.
More wildfires occur in the East (including the central states), but the wildfires in the West (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) are larger and burn more acreage.
For more information about preventing wildfires, hunters and shooters can click here.
For Smokey Bear’s tips to prevent wildfires, click here.
Resources: Congressional Research Service, Department of Interior, National Interagency Fire Center, NSSF.