Forest Fire Prevention – What You Need to Know

Forest fires are dangerous, and we should all take special precautions year-round to make sure fires are not carelessly ignited. Forest fires threaten people needlessly, kill wildlife and destroy forests that provide a livelihood and recreation for millions of people around the world.

Grass fires are a major concern for firefighters in early spring; they get quickly out of control and can cause serious damage to agricultural and forested lands. Forest fire officials encourage people not to light grass fires or burn debris. Burning dry grass in fields or yard debris can spread to nearby forests.

Consider no-burn options. Many landfills offer designated days when yard debris can be disposed of at little or no cost. Many “how to” publications and advice are available about composting. On-site chipping may be feasible. Limbs and other debris may be piled for wildlife habitat if located where it does not pose a wildfire hazard.

Fire in Forests

Carelessly lit and tended campfires and smoking are another major concern throughout the burning season.

Every year, countless acres of forests are burned because of human carelessness. To help prevent fires in or near forest land during the forest fire season, the following steps should be followed:

1. Check local regulations regarding permit requirements and “burn ban” restrictions. These are available from your municipality, fire department or department of natural resources. They may include:

  • Obtaining a burning permit for burning grass, brush, slash or other debris in or within a prescribed distance of forest land;
  • A campfire permit and the landowner’s permission for an open campfire, cooking fire or bonfire in or near forest land;
  • A work permit for any work in forest land involving two or more people.

2. Burn only natural vegetation or untreated wood products.

3. Burn piles are at least 50 feet from structures and 500 feet from any forest slash.

4. Clear the area around the burn pile of any flammable debris.

5. Keep firefighting equipment handy – a connected water hose or at least five gallons of water and a shovel should be nearby.

6. Don’t burn if it’s too windy to burn – if trees are swaying, flags are extended, or waves appear on open water.

7. Be prepared to extinguish the fire if it becomes a nuisance.

8. Attend the fire until it is completely out.

9. Smoking should not be done while moving from one place to another in forest land. Make sure your butt is out – “dead out!”

10. Power saws must have a proper muffler and be accompanied by a round point shovel or fire extinguisher.

11. Cars, trucks and machinery must have proper exhaust systems when operated in or near forest land. Exhaust spark arresters are a requirement on certain machines.

12. Know your local emergency telephone number if a fire becomes uncontrollable.