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Fire safety tips for the coming dry season

100_1197After the fire in Lory State Park, one thing has become crystal clear: this year’s fire season may be a tough one.

This winter, we haven’t had enough snow to keep the dryness at bay, but there is no use moping about it. I am not about to let a high fire risk ruin my fun. We all can keep on heading for the hills, as long as we stay careful. So this week, here are some basic wildfire safety and prevention tips.

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First of all, the most important rule is prevention. Once a fire starts, it can get out of hand in no time. Therefore, follow a few simple rules and there should be no problem.

For the most part, just avoid fire on the trail. But if you plan on camping, check the fire ban status wherever you are headed — the fire service puts those in place for a reason. A campfire in a dry forest in the foothills can be akin to a burning match in a haystack.

But if there is no ban, stick to the basic Smokey the Bear tips. Build your fire 15 feet away from tents, trees and bushes. Watch for hanging branches above. When building the fire, stick to the pit approach: Pick a desired spot, dig one foot down and surround the spot with stones.

While the fire is burning, keep firewood upwind so a stray spark doesn’t turn your whole campsite into an inferno. Once you’re done, let the wood burn up completely. Soak the embers and stir it all up into a wet, soot soup.

However, if you do find yourself unfortunate enough to be caught in a fire, head for water. Wade into a lake, stream or river. If there is no water around, remember that wildfire travels uphill, so  stay below the flames.

Finding clear, flat ground away from any greenery (and brownery) is the best move. If you are so unfortunate to be caught above the flames, head over the next ridge if possible. Just make sure that there’s no smoke rising from a spot fire on the other side.

After witnessing a large fire so early in the year, it is easy to be negative. But these tips can help keep you safe, and know that fires are necessary in maintaining the mountain environment that we know and love. In my opinion, they add to the majesty and might of the landscape. It’s only through sheer fiery destruction that the forests are able to grow.

And even though fire season may be approaching quickly, we can still enjoy our mountains!

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