Wildfires are a natural occurrence at some point during the year. They usually occur in the Summer when the temperatures are high and there hasn’t been a lot of rain fall. Grass, trees and shrubbery have become dry and the smallest spark can turn into a blazing fire if not caught quickly and extinguished.

However, not all wildfires are caused by Mother Nature. Humans have a large impact on wildfires as well. Fireworks that have been set off incorrectly, cigarettes thrown away at the wayside and ill tended campfires are a few ways that fires have been started at the hands of humans.  Here are some tips to help you be more aware of how to prevent wildfires, and what to do if you might notice a fire starting where it shouldn’t be:

1. NEVER throw cigarettes, matches or any other type of smoking materials from a moving vehicle. When that item lands on the ground, or in grass, it has the potential to continue to burn. If it finds any type of material to burn, it could turn into a bigger fire. If you are in park grounds, again never throw any burning material on the ground. The ground is just one big wood fireplace! Always make sure that any burning item is completely extinguished before disposing of them properly.

2. If you choose to burn yard waste, it is wise to use a burn barrel. This is usually some type of metal barrel that contains any material that you will be burning. Avoid burning during windy days. This can cause lit material to fly into the air and land somewhere else, and potentially start a fire that you are unaware of. Make sure to keep a shovel, water and fire retardant nearby your barrel to keep all fires in check. Also make sure to remove any flammables from your yard while you are burning in case ashes do fly up.

3. When camping and having a campfire, make sure that you dig a pit and line the fire with large rocks. This will help your fire to stay contained in just your fire pit.

You also want to keep the height of your fire low. The higher it gets, the higher the risk that embers will fly. Once you are finished with your fire, make sure to completely extinguish the fire. A good way to extinguish your fire is by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes until it is cold to the touch. Also NEVER LEAVE A FIRE UNATTENDED! Never leave your campsite or go to sleep with a fire burning.

4. If you happen to notice a fire that is unattended, might have the potential to become out-of-control, or IS out-of-control, the best thing to do would be to contact 911, your local fire department, or the park service, depending on where this fire is located.

Wildfires can be avoided if we take the time to make sure our fires are extinguished, if we don’t play with fireworks when and where we shouldn’t, and if we don’t throw burning material away in fire prone area. Using common sense can help avoid losing thousands of homes and forests in the future.