While this isn’t a statistic we’re happy to admit, an astonishing amount of land in the United States is currently ablaze. While wildfires are a staple of every summer in certain regions of America, their occurrence has become increasingly more common, and in the most tragic scenarios, many homeowners find their property completely destroyed in the flames.
This is especially true in California. Whether you’re in Riverside or Chula Vista, you’re not immune to the damages of wildfires, and even if it seems inconceivable that they would make their way to your home, never say never. While there is little you can do to curb the appetite of a wildfire that’s already raging, there are many things you can do to prevent the odds of starting a fire yourself when you’re out in the wilderness.
Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to prevent fires from happening. This is advice we’ve given to everyone with whom we have helped with fire damage restoration.
In the Wild – Campfire 101
Most fires in the wild are born from irresponsible campfire etiquette. When it comes down to it, it’s not very hard to responsibly maintain a campfire, but a lot of people don’t take the proper precautions. How would you feel if a few simple mistakes ended up causing a wildfire that destroyed hundreds of acres of land? Not good, we presume. Here are some things to consider when you have a campfire going:
Always Respect Fire Bans
This consideration is extremely self-explanatory. Unfortunately, there are so many people who fail to heed it that we feel it needs special mention.
The long and short of it is this — fire bans exist for a reason. And that reason is, well, large portions of the state are on fire. When the danger of fire is high, states tend to enact a fire ban in certain areas that would easily ignite due to local conditions. Many campers, unfortunately, can’t fathom a night in the woods without a campfire, so they set one up, and in unfortunate cases, end up igniting a forest fire.
Respect fire bans! If you’re unsure what the rules are, call a local state trooper and get the lowdown on what is and is not allowed. In many cases, campfires are forbidden, but little propane grills are permitted, allowing you to still cook. Sometimes, fires are allowed, but only in designated fire pits. It depends on location and the circumstances of whatever area you’re in, so be prepared and learn whatever information you need to know!
Use a Fire Pit
Assuming you’re allowed to set up a fire, you should always use a fire pit, even if it’s not explicitly stated by state troopers. Fire pits are all around safer, and they contain your fire, preventing most wayward sparks, burning ash, or flaming debris from exiting the immediate area.
You don’t necessarily need to have a fire pit that’s made of metal — in many dispersed camping areas, “homemade” fire pits are constructed with large rocks, creating a circle that keeps the fire reigned in. If you’re at a designated campsite, use the fire pit that is provided, and if you’re in a dispersed camping area where you can pitch a tent wherever you please, create a pit if there’s not one that’s currently built.
Of course, it’s obvious that the fire should stay inside the pit — that was the exact point we just made above. But something that’s equally as important is to keep anything that’s on fire inside the pit area. We say this because it’s not uncommon for people to put sticks in the fire, or to pull out marshmallows on a skewer that have lit ablaze. It’s easy to have any number of objects that have caught a small flame, and you would be wise to keep those within the fire pit area. If you accidentally drop a piece of burning debris, it can light ablaze little things on the ground such as pine needles or leaves.
Alternatively, being too cavalier with your skewers and sticks can be dangerous. If you move them too fast, whatever you’re roasting might fly off and land somewhere flammable. Or, if you’re holding the tip of a burning stick too high, the wind might catch it, bringing sparks and flame to an undesired location.
Completely Douse or Smother Your Fire
For starters, fires should never be left unattended. However, even responsible campfire stewards can accidentally leave their fire unattended. This happens when the fire isn’t completely doused or smothered like it should be.
What you never want to do is let a fire “die down” on its own. When you’re done with the fire, you need to make sure it’s completely out, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Water is a great way to douse the flames and often prevents the ashes from starting up again. However, you’d be surprised at how tenacious your coals can be, and even a fire that’s been completely soaked in water can start up again without you realizing it. It sounds crazy, but it’s true, and it has absolutely been the cause of forest fires in the past.
The most reliable method is smothering your fire with dirt, preferably after giving it some water. Most campsites have enough dust, dirt, or sand in the pit area that will allow you to completely cover up your coals. This is the best way to ensure that your embers won’t kick back up again in the dark of the night.
Avoid Starting Fires in the Wind
Even if there isn’t a fire ban active, it’s just not a good idea to start a fire in the wind. First of all, it’s much more of a hassle trying to even get the fire lit, and you could spend a tremendous amount of your time frustrating yourself, trying to get flames going when winds are constantly competing to put them out as fast as possible.
And yet, if you do get a fire going, the opposite ironically becomes true — the wind will stoke the flames and make it roar. This can be dangerous, both to you and the surrounding area. Small flecks of wood and various embers can easily be blown out of a well-made fire pit when the winds are strong, and the last thing you want is flaming debris shooting out of your campfire.
Call Fire Damage Professionals
The last thing that’s extremely important in any circumstance regarding a fire is to call the professionals when things go awry. There are two types of people you should call — those who can put out the fire, and those who can clean up the damage afterward. In a wilderness situation, you shouldn’t hesitate to report a forest fire, even if you’re the one who caused it. This could potentially be the difference between a slap on the wrist and hundreds or thousands of acres being burnt down.
If you’ve suffered fire or smoke damage on your property, it’s important to call a team who can handle fire damage restoration. At ServiceMaster Absolute, we’ve carried out countless smoke and fire damage restoration jobs to the people of Southern California, particularly in the San Diego, Riverside, and Chula Vista areas. Fire and smoke damage can be dangerous to live with. So, whether your property has been ravaged by major or minor fires, it’s in your best interest to have it taken care of. Do you need us to stop by your California home? Contact us today!