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What Can We Do To Prevent Forest Fires?

If you live anywhere in Idaho, Washington, Oregon or Montana we’re betting that when you look outside you can’t see the sky. Fires have been burning in these places all summer but it’s over the last few weeks that they’ve become worse and more have started burning. Many cities are experiencing ash falling from the skies, thousands have been evacuated, nearly 800,000 acres have been burned and there is no end in sight.

Officials in Montana have claimed that many of their fires won’t stop until it starts snowing enough to douse the flames. They simply don’t have enough resources or man power to put a stop to over 300,000 acres of wildfires in their state. One of the most beautiful national parks in the country, Glacier National Park, lost the historic Sperry Chalet, a historic hotel and dining room built in 1914 and only reachable by trail.

The Eagle Creek Fire in Oregon is burning the Columbia River Gorge and merged with the Indian Creek Fire last on Tuesday bringing the number of acres affected to over 30,000. One of the most popular destinations in Oregon, Multnomah Falls, is currently in the midst of flames and firefighters have been working around the clock to keep the visitors center from burning down.

Smoke from the over two dozen fires burning the Northwest is travelling as far as the East coast. A cold front moving through the East is bringing the smoke with it. Most of the smoke is not affecting the air quality in the same way it is out West but is noticeable enough to make for hazy skies and red sunsets.

Some of the fires were caused by lightning but some were caused by humans. It’s important to know how we can prevent fires from starting so we can minimize the damage caused by flames that can be very hard to contain. The summer months leave much of the Northwest very dry and at risk for fires so it’s important that we do everything we can to lower the amount of avoidable fires started by humans.

First, we must check local regulations regarding permit requirements and ‘burn ban’ restrictions. They are available from your municipality, fire department or department of natural resources and may include; obtaining a burning permit, a campfire permit or a work permit for any work in the forest.

Burning only natural vegetation and untreated wood products is also important because sometimes the chemicals used to treat wood are highly flammable and hard to put out if the fires gets out of control. Any burn piles should be at least 50 feet from any structures and 500 feet from any forest slash. Clearing areas around burn piles of any flammable debris is also critical, embers and even flames can travel long distances and start additional fires.

Always keep firefighting equipment nearby. If you have a camping trailer or RV bring a hose to connect to your water supply. Bring a minimum of 5 gallons of water with you and always have a shovel to cover the embers with wet dirt. It is much easier to contain a campfire than it is to contain a blaze that is burning more than a few hundred square feet, even with a team of firefighters.

Don’t burn if it’s too windy. It is pretty easy to tell if it’s too windy to have a fire, if trees are swaying, flags are fully extended or you can see waves on open water, don’t burn. Wind not only spreads flames and embers but fuels fires into the uncontrollable blazes that are plaguing the Northwest at this very moment.

Be prepared to extinguish a fire if it becomes a nuisance and attend the fire until it is completely out. Assuming your fire will burn itself out is very dangerous. If wind picks up it can reignite the fire in a second and take flames and embers with it, quickly engulfing the surrounding area.

Smoking should not be done while moving from one place to another, even cigarette butts can burn long enough to start fires. Make sure your butt is out before moving on.

Power saws, cars, trucks and machinery must have proper exhaust systems when operated near forest land. Always carry a fire extinguisher if operating any of these in the forest, dry grasses need only the slightest bit of heat to go up in flames this time of year.

At HD Insurance we love the vast amount of uninhabited land that the Northwest has to offer so it is heartbreaking to see so much of it being decimated by fires. With the air quality so poor, and in some ways dangerous, it also makes enjoying the last weeks of Summer almost impossible to do, many people experience symptoms similar to a cough or even asthma as a result of the smoke in the air.

We can’t control lightning but we can control the way we act when we’re outside. We must do everything we can to protect the environment from devastation like we’re seeing right now all over the Northwest.