Photo: Tyler Roemer.

How to Help Prevent Wildfires

Jul 01, 2021 by Jana Hemphill
Did you know a large number of wildfires in Oregon are actually caused by humans? Help be part of the solution by knowing what you can do to prevent wildfires!

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As wildfire season gets going with fires to the north and south of Central Oregon, it's also time to think about what you can do to help prevent wildfires in the first place. Did you know a large number of wildfires in Oregon are actually caused by humans? Help be part of the solution by knowing what you can do to prevent wildfires.

Cars and Dry Vegetation. It might be surprising to you, but your car gets hot enough during the summer to start a fire! One of the ways this happens is when you park your car on dry plants during Central Oregon’s hot summers. The heat on the underside of your car can actually ignite those dry plants below. You also risk the chance of starting a wildfire when you drive on unmaintained dirt roads. The plants in the middle of the road can catch on your car’s underside and then quickly light on fire. Avoid wildfires by parking in designated spots that do not have plants underneath, whether you’re out for a hike, around town, or at a friend’s house.

Make sure your campfire is dead out! Photo: Land Trust.
Make sure your campfire is dead out! Photo: Land Trust.
Campfires. We’ve all seen the signs: We Want Your Campfire DEAD OUT! But what does this actually mean? It means there shouldn’t be any heat coming from your campfire when you leave. Here’s how to make sure your fire is out:

1. Slowly add water to your campfire.

2. Stir, scrape, and separate the coals and ash to spread the heat out.

3. Add more water to your campfire until it stops steaming.

4. Feel for any residual heat by using the back of your hand held above the coals and ash (please make sure not to touch the fire!). Make sure you feel the edges of your fire and fire ring.

5. If you still feel a little bit of heat, continue to add more water and stir the coals until you no longer feel any heat.

Bonfires. A tradition of summer for some, bonfires can be a lot of fun. While you're enjoying yourself, please remember, the bigger the fire, the greater chance of it getting out of control. It’s also easy for an unexpected breeze to sweep by and take some fire embers with it, catching nearby grasses on fire. Just remember--the smaller, the better.

Debris Burning. You should not burn your debris during fire season. It’s a good idea to plan to burn in the late fall and winter, but you should always check weather conditions, regardless of the time of year. Things like wind, temperature, and humidity all affect a fire’s ability to spread. Keep your debris burn pile small, then feed it from a larger pile of materials. Of course, make sure the fire is completely out before you leave it. In addition, contact your local fire district before burning to make sure debris burning is allowed.

Fireworks. While fireworks can be fun summer tradition, they can also be incredibly dangerous, especially when it comes to wildfires. Many of us remember when Pilot Butte caught fire from fireworks being set off by a group of friends. Please be very cautious if you decide to have fireworks and make sure you know the rules of setting off fireworks. For instance, fireworks are illegal on public lands in Central Oregon, including national forests, wilderness areas, campgrounds, and state parks. The City of Bend also has some helpful tips in regards to fireworks.

Defensible Space. When a wildfire does start, you’ll want to make sure you have defensible space around your home (especially if you live close to the forest). There are a lot of different ways you can create a defensible space, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Trim branches that overhang your house, deck, garage, and sheds
  • Prune the lower branches of large trees
  • Create small fuel breaks with hardscaping features in your yard
  • Landscape with non-combustible mulches like crushed stone and gravel
  • Use landscaping plants that are fire-resistant (not to be confused with fire proof)
  • Screen your roof and attic vents to prevent embers from flying into your home
  • Store firewood at least 30 feet away from your home
  • Make sure you have Class A fire-rated roofing products

Remember, we can all do our part to make sure we have less wildfires!

Oregon Department of Forestry
Deschutes National Forest
Oregon State University Extension


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