A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Camp Liahona, Clark Fork. The area was still an active fire zone meaning we needed a permit to visit. As we got closer to the burn area, I was reminded of the end of the world movies where it is difficult to see or hear any living thing. There was total destruction and not a bird or animal in sight. I admit I began to cry. How could it all be gone and how did Camp Liahona survive?
Camp was kept safe due to the diligence of campers, youth leaders, priesthood leaders and administrators who followed safety protocols.
Today those memories remind me fire danger is very high this year. Abundant rains this year have created beautiful green vistas which are now becoming dried fuel for fires.
All of this reminded me we can all help prevent this destruction. How?
Travel Carefully: Small sparks can lead to thousands of acres being destroyed.
- Check brake pads. Thin brake pads may cause sparks as you drive down the road.
- Be aware of dry vegetation and branches along the roadside. Never park close to or over vegetation along the roadside, even for a few minutes.
- When towing a travel trailer, boat, or cargo van, secure the chain so it does not drag on the ground causing sparks. Secure the chain.
- Do not allow a tail pipe or muffler to drag on the ground.
- Maintain the proper tire pressure. Low pressure may cause wheel rims to be exposed causing sparks,
- When building a fire be sure to build on a flat surface in an area cleared of leaves, pine needles and twigs.
- Clear an area ten feet around your campfire. Remove anything that may to flammable. It does not matter that the last campers did not clear the area, just do it. The only building that burned at Camp Liahona was a new one where the area had not yet been cleared.
- Place rocks as a non-flammable boundary around your fire.
- Pile firewood away from the fire. Place them far enough away that you need to get up to add more wood to the fire.
- Take a large bucket or large stockpot when you pack for your trip. Fill pot and keep it near your fire. If you are building a larger fire have more than one available for dousing a fire that gets out of control.
- When lighting a fire, toss the used match into the bucket of water.
- Always take a shovel when camping enabling you to properly extinguish the fire.
- Never leave a burning fire or one that has not been properly extinguished.
- Check at a ranger station for an APP that will warn you of fire dangers before you leave home. Also ask if there is cell coverage in the area so you can receive alerts.
Properly extinguish campfire and fires in a grill:
- If using charcoal for cooking, immerse them in water when you have finished making s’mores.
- Drown campfire with water.
- Use your shovel to move rocks, which may be harboring embers.
- Using a shovel move around the fire embers.
- Add more water and stir again.
- Feel campfire area to make sure it is cool.
- Dig a little more to determine if there are roots on fire. Remember smoldering roots can cause a fire hours or days or weeks after you leave.
- If you do not have sufficient water to extinguish a fire, use dirt from the surrounding area to smother the embers.
Be aware of your surroundings:
- Drought has been a challenge in many areas and insects have been killing trees that have been weakened. Look up and do not build fires near dead and dying trees.
- Trees that have been weakened may fall. Set up tents away from these trees.
- Look for widow makers, branches that may be dead even when the tree is not. These branches can fall causing injuries and even death, thus, widow makers.
- Park vehicles in openings not under trees.
- Bring an ax in the event a limb falls and needs to be cut up.
- Go prepared, as cell phone coverage may be sparse or non-existent.
- If you are cutting trees in a high-risk area, do not use a chain saw.
- If you are hiking in a high-risk area, do not
A campfire caused the Donnell Fire, which caused all the destruction around Camp Liahona. It destroyed over 36,000 acres.
Before you leave to camp or hike please read through these guidelines and prepare to be safe and to keep our forests safe and preserved for future adventures and future generations.
December 30, 2021 saw the Boulder County Colorado communities of Louisville and Superior destroyed by a fire storm. This happened in December and in a neighborhood, not a forested area. Over 1,000 homes were lost. Operation Christmas Ornaments served these survivors in 2022 and we hear from them that many are still not back in their homes, almost two years later.
But what can you do around your home or neighborhood?
Create a Safety Zone Around Your Home
Design and landscape your home with fire safety in mind. All vegetation is fuel, though some trees and shrubs are more flammable than others. The greater the distance between your home and the vegetation, the greater your protection.
- Cut and water lawns often.
- Move shrubs and other landscaping away from the sides of the house. Shrubs should not touch the walls of your home.
- Prune branches and shrubs to allow for 15 feet between vegetation and chimneys and stove pipes.
- Prune tree limbs 15 feet above the ground.
- Prune tree limbs so they don’t overhang the roof.
- Replace highly flammable vegetation such as pine, eucalyptus, junipers and firs with less flammable varieties. If in doubt, ask your local fire department or landscape professional for suggestions.
- Remove vines from the walls of your house, out buildings and garden walls.
- Remove all dead tree branches from the ground-level up (these act as ladder fuels for the approaching fire).
- Clear the area of leaves, brush, and fallen limbs.
- Remove debris from under sun decks and porches.
- Replace wooden decks with non-combustibles such as concrete, brick, rock, or man-made materials. Building a deck structure at ground level will eliminate the danger of a fire starting under a deck.
- Use non-combustible patio furniture and covers.
- Adding a brick or rock wall around your property will help prevent a grass fire from threatening your home.
- When possible, install electrical lines underground.
- If you notice branches around power lines, ask the power company to clear them.
- Avoid using bark and wood chip mulch.
- Stack firewood 100 feet away and uphill from any structure.
- Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers away from your home.
- Keep the gas grill and propane tank at least 15 feet from any structure. Clear an area 10 feet around the grill.
- Clear at least a 10-foot area around propane tanks.
- Dispose of newspapers and boxes. Do not allow them to stack up.
- Place stove, fireplace, and grill ashes in a metal bucket far from structures. Soak with water.
- Have garden hoses that are long enough to reach any area of your home and other structures on your property.
Look around your home now and make the changes needed to keep your home safer from fire storms.
Remember this is a hotter than normal summer with an increase in grasses and other undergrowth from spring and winter precipitating that are now becoming fuel for fires. You too can help prevent destructive fires.
Carolyn is always available to answer questions and share tips at Totallyready.com and on Facebook. For those wanting information or to participate creating Christmas ornaments for disaster survivors visit Operation Christmas Ornaments on Facebook and on Carolyn’s blog.