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Monday, October 18, 2010

Be Cautious with Fall and Winter Campfires

I think that if you asked most people across Virginia when the most dangerous time of year is for wildfire they would say the summer. Which seems to be a logical since that is when it is the hottest.

Actually here in Virginia spring and fall are the times when we are most concerned with wildfires. This is not implying that we can not have significant wildfires in the summer but usually those dangerous times do not last for any great length of time.
 Most of the deep south continues to deal with increased wildfires and drought conditions. The rains we have been getting every week to 10 days is welcomed and keeping our fire activity down. It will not take but  for us to miss one of these rain events to dramatically increase the potential for wildfires.

 Tip of the Blog

Be Cautious with Fall and Winter Campfires

Fall time is an exciting time of the year for outdoor enthusiasts.  Hunting season will soon be here.
            One of the nice things about fall hunting is building a nice campfire to heat some food, make tea or coffee or simply to warm up.
The last thing you are probably thinking about is campfire safety when it’s this cold.  So, you pull up under the shelter of a big old tree, forcing your cold-stiffened fingers to build a fire.  The fire does the trick and you get back to enjoying the great outdoors and, in some cases, leaving your campfire to burn out on its own.
Did you know that a fire built on peat or duff can continue to smolder a long time?  Duff is the layer of leaves, twigs, branches and other debris on the forest floor.  As it slowly decays it turns into soil.  Fires lit on these duff or peat quickly burn down into the ground and even though there is no open flame and very little smoke, they will continue to burn.
 So, if you are building campfire for food or warmth this fall or winter, here are a few tips to make your campfire safer.  Build your fire on rock, clay or sand; keep your fire small and make sure the fire you have enjoyed is dead out before you get back to whatever activity you were enjoying.    

 Firewise Campfires

  • Keep fires small.
  • Don't scar tress, living or dead, by snapping branches off.
  • Use only dead and downed wood.
  • Manage your campfire.
    • Never leave a fire unattended.
    • Don't try to burn foil-lined packets, leftover food, or other garbage that will have to be removed later.
    • Burn wood completely to ash.
    • Stop feeding the fire and give yourself and hour or more to add all the unburned stick ends.
    • Saturate the ash with water.
    • You should be able to touch the fire area with your bare hand - "DEAD OUT".
    • Scatter all the ashes widely with a small shovel or pot lid.
    • Restore the appearance of the fire site.
  • Consider using a stove instead of a campfire.
Build fires only when conditions are right - regulations permit fires, the danger of wildfire is low, an adequate water supply is readily available, downed and dead wood is plentiful, and there is sufficient time to prepare the fire site, burn all the wood to ash, allow for cooling, and clean up. Unfortunately, campfires left unattended or not extinguished properly do start wildfires!

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