Wildfire risk continues

Published 8:24 am Friday, October 11, 2019

CONTRIBUTED — Although light rain fell in some areas of the Cherokee National Forest, USDA Forest Service officials say much more moisture is needed in the days to come to significantly slow or put an end to the fall fire season.

Extended periods of hot weather and little to no rain has increased the risk of wildfires throughout the Cherokee National Forest. Wildfires are not only a threat to wildlife and the natural resources, but also to life and property.

“Without a doubt we were pleased to see the rain and cooler temperatures. It helped slow things down in some areas. We aren’t letting our guard down. It doesn’t take long for things to dry out and the fire hazard to rise,” said Cherokee National Forest Fire Management Officer Trent Girard. “A few days of dry and windy conditions that are typical this time of year can have the woods dry and susceptible to fire in a hurry. We don’t want folks to be fooled by the recent moisture we received. We still need to be very careful with fire and be aware of how quickly conditions can change.”

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The U.S. Forest Service reminds campers to be cautious when burning campfires. Use existing fire rings if possible and clear a safe area around them of at least 15 feet. Dig a pit in the soil to about a foot deep. Circle fire pit with rocks. Build a campfire away from overhanging branches, logs/stumps, steep slopes, dry grass and leaves/pine needles. Never leave campfires unattended, and ensure they are completely out before leaving.

The following guidelines are for safely extinguishing campfires and helping to prevent wildfires:

Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.

Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones.

Pour water until the hissing sound stops.

Stir campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.

Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.

Stir and make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch.

If you do not have water, use dirt. Pour dirt or sand on the fire, mixing enough dirt or sand with the embers to extinguish the fire.

Continue adding or stirring dirt until all remaining material is cool.

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 start a wildfire.

U.S. Forest Service officials say that if you see something, say something! If you see smoke or any suspicious activities, please call 911. Don’t assume someone else has already notified local emergency responders. Sometimes even small bits of information can be useful in an investigation. Help protect your national forest from wildfires!