For Blue Tarp Campers looking to chase the chill with a crackling fire, the problem is often too much fizzle rather than too much flame.
But for the rest of us? Wildfire is a worry anytime we set a match to fuel in the great outdoors. Human activity (think of out-of-control campfires and discarded cigarettes) causes 90% of wildfires, according to the National Park Service.
Not only does wildfire take a tragic toll on lives and livelihoods in the areas hit, it can devastate anyone found responsible for sparking one. Careless campers can incur civil charges (damage based on negligence, waste, and "fire trespass") or criminal charges (with reckless burning, if a fire is accidental, or arson if it's intentionally set), triggering steep fines or even jail time.
Damages may be sought for injuries; destruction of structures, personal property, livestock, and timber; plus the costs of firefighting and suppression, cleanup, and restoration. Those costs can quickly overwhelm liability coverage under any homeowners policy or even umbrella coverage. (And, of course, no coverage applies to intentional or criminal acts.)
How fire-safe are you?
Take our campfire quiz to test your safety smarts when it comes to protecting Northwest wild lands from fire. True or false:
- Never build a fire on a slope.
- A fire pit (surrounded with rocks or a metal fire ring) is the safest spot for a fire.
- Stack firewood upwind and away from the fire.
- A five-foot radius around the fire pit cleared to bare soil (free of combustibles like needle buildup and dry leaves) is enough to discourage the fire from accidentally spreading.
- Once the fire is reduced to ash, it's OK to leave it.
- Keep fires no bigger than two feet across and no more than two feet high.
Check your answers here, with expert advice from the Department of Natural Resources and the National Wildlife Federation:
- True. Winds sweeping up a hillside can easily fan a fire out of control.
- True. Also take care not to build a fire under overhanging branches.
- False. Clear an eight- to 10-foot radius down to bare soil around the fire pit to tame errant sparks.
- False. Before leaving any fire site, drown it with water. Make sure all coals and sticks are wet. Move rocks to ensure no burning embers lurk underneath. Stir the fire, add more water, and stir again until the ashes are cold.
- True. Bigger fires are more likely to get out of control or throw sparks outside your cleared buffer zone.
Want to learn more about staying safe in wildfire season? Check out "Don't Get Burned!" our annual wildfire preparedness campaign that gives homeowners the tips and resources they need to protect their property.