As Memorial Day weekend kicks off another season of camping, and Colorado stares down another potentially bad fire season, the word in the woods is to be careful.
“There have already been 10 to 12 small wildland fires reported in Douglas County since January,” said Douglas County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Hanavan. “We were very fortunate that we had so much moisture in April and May. It helped reduce the immediate risk, but we have the summer heat coming right around the corner.”
And while no fire restrictions are currently in place, both Hanavan and Douglas County Director of Emergency Management Tim Johnson urge caution when lighting a fire in the woods.
“Any time you are dealing with fire in the forest, you should take precautions,” Johnson said. “We know the potential is there for a bad fire season and we want people to start thinking about it now even though the fire danger might not be critical right now.
“We need people to be in the mindset of, ‘Hey, anytime I’m going to build a campfire, I need to be cautious and I need to make sure it’s out before I leave.’”
Hanavan seconded Johnson’s comment about properly extinguishing a campfire, stating that you never know how bad a fire might burn, especially if left unattended.
The U.S. Forest Service offers the following guidelines on its website about how to properly extinguish a campfire:
• Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
• Pour lots of water on the fire and drown all embers, not just the red ones.
• Pour until hissing sound stops.
• Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
• Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
• Stir and make sure everything is wet and cold to the touch.
• If you do not have water, use dirt and mix the dirt (or sand) with the embers.
• Do not bury the fire, as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and could start a wildfire.