In Texas, wildfires can quite literally be a hot topic as temperatures rise. According to the U.S Department of Interior, close to 90 percent of wildfires in the United States are caused by humans while the other 10 percent is often due to lightning. Wildfire prevention continues to be one of the most critical issues affecting our country and since 1944, The Smokey Bear campaign is the longest running public service advertising campaign in the United States. The message “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires” is simple yet straightforward.
We all know even something tiny like a lit cigarette or hot embers from a grill can be enough to ignite a wildfire. And, when you add up warmer temperatures, dry conditions, high winds and dead vegetation, it’s easy to see how some human-caused fires result from unattended campfires, debris burning, discarded cigarettes or even arson.
A few culprits you might not expect include sparks from lawn mowers, flat tires, chainsaws, trains, metal cutters and welding equipment. Sparks from transformers, catalytic converters, and electric fence malfunctions can kick-start a wildfire in no time. In some cases, glass bottles on the side of a road have even acted as a magnifying glass to burn grass in extreme temperatures.
To protect you, your family and your community, follow the tips below so that you can you be the difference maker:
- Follow all local laws and regulations. Cities have laws governing burning of all kinds including time of day, time of year, and what can be burned.
- Check weather updates. It’s never a good idea to burn if there are high winds because it can easily spread the fire. Hot temperatures, dry grass, and low humidity all contribute to wildfires.
- Use controlled locations for burning. Make sure all campfires are fully surrounded fire pits. No matter how something is being burned, it is important to do it in a controlled area. Fires can quickly escalate, so it is necessary to have it in an area that will provide some enclosure so it can be extinguished if needed.
- Though it may seem obvious, don’t burn anything combustible. It’s common for people to throw garbage into campfires, but certain objects can react violently to fires and lead to a quickly spreading fire. Only burn materials such as wood, leaves, or yard waste. Cardboard and paper items are usually acceptable to burn, but make sure it is safe before doing so.
If you spot a wildfire, call 911 immediately. Be prepared to give your location or nearest crossroads to the responders. If the fire is near your home, initiate your family and pet evacuation plan immediately. Staying behind to water down grass or wet down roofs will put you in danger of being trapped.
To see where wildfires are burning click here or to view fire potential updates click here.