Help prevent fires this Labor Day; abandoned campfires are one of the leading causes of wildfire

This abandoned campfire caused a wildfire in Washington State. Help prevent forest fires by obeying fire safety rules when you go out camping. Photo by: DNR

As the last holiday weekend of summer arrives, we hope you will be careful if driving a vehicle, tending a campfire, or using tools outdoors over this Labor Day weekend. Most wildfires can be prevented, since most are human-caused.

And please remember to program this important number in your cell phone before you head out:

Report forest fires at 800-562-6010.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) suggests you always check to see if there are additional local restrictions on campfires before leaving home to go camping or hiking. Because campgrounds may choose to ban campfires, it’s best to check with the campground host before lighting a campfire.

In areas where campfires are allowed, DNR asks the public to please follow these suggestions:

  • Use an existing fire ring; don’t create a new one.
  • Clear all vegetation away from the fire ring (remove all flammable materials, such as needles, leaves, branches, etc.).
  • Keep your campfire small.
  • Keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby for throwing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended!

When putting out your campfire, you should:

  • First, drown the campfire with water.
  • Next, mix the ashes and embers with soil. Scrape all partially-burned sticks and logs to make sure all the hot embers are off of them.
  • Stir the embers after they are covered with water and make sure everything is wet.
  • Feel the coals, embers, and any partially-burned wood with your hands. Everything should be cool to the touch.
  • When you think you are done, take an extra minute and add more water. Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again.
  • If you don’t have water, use moist dirt. Be careful not to bury any hot or burning material, as it can smolder and later reignite.
  • Finally, check the entire campsite for possible sparks or embers; it only takes one to start a forest fire.
  • If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.

Forests, brush, and grasses in Washington State are tinder-dry, which is why DNR issued a statewide burn ban covering all DNR-protected lands, effective July 1, 2012, through September 30, 2012. The ban includes all forestlands in Washington except for federal lands.

Remember, a little extra care takes only a few minutes of your time, and it could prevent a wildfire.

What’s the best way to find out if you may have a campfire? Contact the landowner of the property, whether it’s state land, federal land, a campground, or private land.

Remember, if there is ever any doubt whether you may have a campfire or not, always contact your area’s DNR Region Office, fire district, or fire department to clarify specific regulations in that area.

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