Wildfire Safety Tips and Awareness Information
“Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” has been a slogan in recent years replacing the “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires” that most of us grew up with along with Smokey Bear. If you (as a firefighter) have ever “chased” a wildfire to extinguish it you must admit, that is no fun. Observations of persons tossing lit cigarettes from vehicles and just flipping them carelessly onto sidewalks and other areas is irresponsible. Children retrieve the butts; the lighted material can blow onto ignitable material, and in some cases animals, namely birds pick up the lit butts and deposit them in their nests and beds of mulch at houses resulting in structure fires. Documentation in well known and respected fire investigation training manuals sites wild animals with fire at outdoor incidents.
There have been fires that the cause was [documented] to be carelessly discarded smoking materials both inside and outside of structures that caused severe damage and in some cases burns and worse, fatal injuries to people [occupants and firefighters].
When walking outdoors, always be aware of your surroundings; a way to escape trouble; and most important, if you see something, say something. A smoke convection column in the woods is not always a safely monitored campfire or cooking venture. With cell phone communications common, make certain your phone is operable from your location. This can be affirmed by the number of strength bars on the face plate.
If you happen-by, what appears [to you] to be an unsafe camp site or fire condition, diplomatically inform the occupants of such; it’s their safety too that you are concerned about. As firefighters, we are ambassadors of fire prevention wherever we happen to be and in particular preventing wild fires that could endanger many people and firefighters. Sometimes a simple, single-sheet handout explaining “Wildfire Prevention and Safety” can be a sign of good-will as well as useful life- safety information.
Keep in mind that you are the expert and any factual information that can be shared will be helpful to your new-found friend(s).
We cannot prevent the natural fires, such as lightning, but we can prevent the “accidental” and careless fires. This is another facet of our job, the prevention of wildfires.
For more information regarding wildfire safety, visit www.wildfires.com or your local fire station.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII) and a fire instructor; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, forensic investigator having investigated several thousand fires and testified over 60 times throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Chairman of the Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane, Lancaster, PA.