Re­mem­ber Wal­low

Catron Courier - - News - By Sher Brown

Ac­cord­ing to for­est ser­vice ex­perts, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions have stacked up to be very sim­i­lar to the 2011 fire sea­son. (Re­mem­ber the Wal­low Fire and nu­mer­ous smaller fires through­out the county?) We had abun­dant rain­fall last mon­soon sea­son, caus­ing rapid growth of grass and brush. Our win­ter has been very dry and mild, dry­ing fu­els. For­tu­nately, we re­ceived a lit­tle snow in Fe­bru­ary that will help min­i­mize the risk for wild­fires early in the sea­son, but the grasses will soon dry out again and be sus­cep­ti­ble to fire.

Most peo­ple think that wild­fires and unat­tended camp­fires go hand-in-hand. In­ter­est­ingly enough, while camp­fires are cer­tainly one of the causes of wild­fires, it’s not the cause that fire fight­ers worry about the most. The big­gest prob­lem is the stuff we never think about—power tools and ve­hi­cles emit­ting sparks. This year, es­pe­cially, we need to main­tain sit­u­a­tional aware­ness to pre­vent wild­land fires.

As the weather gets nicer, more and more peo­ple will be on the road. Our cars can eas­ily start wild­fires with­out us even know­ing. Heat from cat­alytic con­vert­ers or ex­haust emis­sions could emit sparks, start­ing fires in road­side grass. If you’re trav­el­ing by car and need to pull over, look for des­ig­nated ar­eas, such as rest stops or turnouts. If you have to pull over in an emer­gency, please do not stop on grassy ar­eas—stay on pave­ment or in dirt. If you’re haul­ing a trailer, make sure your safety chains are not drag­ging on the pave­ment, caus­ing sparks. Blown tires can cause rims to run on the pave­ment emit­ting sparks, so please make sure your tires are in good shape. If your brakes are worn, not only do they have that an­noy­ing squeal, but brake shoe par­ti­cles can also cause fires.

Use cau­tion when you’re op­er­at­ing equip­ment that can throw sparks, such as grinders, plasma torches, chain saws, gen­er­a­tors, weld­ing torches, etc. Clear the area sur­round­ing your work space of flammable de­bris—es­pe­cially dead leaves, grasses and saw­dust. Have a wa­ter source handy to put out any spot fires that may oc­cur. If a spot fire does oc­cur, do not leave the area un­til you are cer­tain there are no traces of fire. So many of our fire calls in re­cent his­tory have been from peo­ple who started a fire with their power tools, thought they put it out, and walked away, only to re­turn to a blaz­ing fire they couldn’t con­trol.

When BBQing this sea­son, make sure the BBQ is in a clear, open space and that flammable de­bris has been re­moved from the sur­round­ing area. If you use char­coal bri­quettes, be es­pe­cially vig­i­lante, as many wild­fires are caused by over­turned grills, or dis­carded ashes. Be mind­ful of throw­ing out ashes. Make sure the ashes are cold be­fore you dis­pose of them. If you do start a camp­fire, clear the de­bris away from the fire ring, and sur­round it with rocks. Keep wa­ter nearby. Never walk away from the camp­fire. Use wa­ter and dirt to kill the fire. The ground should be cold to the touch be­fore it is safe to leave.

And, of course, there is the age old warn­ing not to throw cig­a­rettes out the win­dow when you’re driv­ing or on the ground while you’re work­ing or play­ing out­side.

It only takes a sec­ond of care­less­ness to cause a rag­ing wild­fire. You don’t want to be that care­less person.

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