Research: 5 simple steps to prevent a disaster

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The devasting breadth of destruction in California’s beautiful Redding-Shasta area is a rude awakening to an especially dry 2018 fire season. Forest fires are part of life in the Northwest, but many are entirely preventable.

As in human-caused.

More than 60,000 human-ignited fires burn millions of acres across the U.S. annually, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Human-caused fires outnumber lightning and other natural causes. As reported in our June issue of Northwest Mining & Timber, by examining the debris and direction of burns, fire investigators know where and how fires began. Witnesses provide IDs. Where negligence is determined, state agencies such as Idaho’s Department of Lands do bill guilty parties, from thousands to millions of dollars.

While smoldering cigarettes are one wildfire trigger (please don’t toss them from the car), that has decreased along with smoking rates. Other human causes include debris/slash burns, fireworks, firearms, equipment sparks, and campfires.

Typically, campfires either grow out of control, foiling recreators’ efforts to stop them, or don’t extinguish properly and re-ignite after people leave.

If you start a campfire, follow these precautions:

1. Check with a local ranger or park office to make sure it’s safe to have one. Weather conditions change and some locations don’t allow them.

2. Make a fire ring of stones or metal.

3. Have water readily available in case it gets out of control.

4. Never keep firewood or other combustibles close to the fire; sometimes it escapes the fire ring.

5. When extinguishing a fire, wait until it is no longer smoking, crackling, or smoldering. The coals should be cold enough to run your hand through safely.

For more prevention tips on these and other summer activities, see:


Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network, longing for autumn. Contact her at

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