By Bob Difley
Already we’re three-quarters of the way through July in a year that could be the hottest on record. The bark beetle is killing trees in western forests. Fire prone tinder is building up on the forest floor. And the dry, hot weather will soon bring on wildfire season.
This is when we RVers must be especially careful with campfires and barbecues. Brock Astel, who is public affairs officer for the Idaho Bureau of Land Management, said that of the 32 fires reported in south-central Idaho this year, 17 were human-caused. Surprisingly, he pointed out that one of the major causes comes from vehicles: dragging equipment, blown tires, or bad wheel bearings can send sparks into and ignite dry grass.
There have been four fires this season in Ketchum and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, three of which were caused by humans, two by campers. One emptied hot charcoal briquettes into a dry area, and one lit a “flash pile” composed of small limbs that are by-products of firewood collecting.
Not that RVers would ever do dumb things like that, but we still need to take the proper precautions when boondocking to assure that none of our actions are the cause of a forest conflagration. Some forests during the dry season require a fire permit if you are going to build a fire or use a barbecue.
The permit is free and is issued by the forest service office or by a ranger when he visits your campsite. He will explain basic fire safety rules and check whether you have a bucket (for dumping water on a fire) and a shovel. A folding camp or military “entrenching tool” is OK. He will probably also advise you that failure to extinguish a campfire is a federal violation that can result in a hefty fine.And make sure you have a full water tank, just in case . . .
When retiring for the night or leaving your campsite, make sure your campfire is completely out and cold. Touch the coals. Winds can spring up at any time, resuscitating a fire and blowing hot sparks around. When you leave shovel dirt over your dead fire. And remember, don’t throw un-burnable things–cans, bottles, tinfoil, plastic–in the fire.
And for your own safety and comfort, check National Interagency Fire Center website for an up-to-the-minute report on fires, closed areas, weather forecasts, and other important news. You do not want to camp in an area threatened by an advancing wildfire, nor do you want to be downwind of a burning fire even miles away. The smoke will make you very uncomfortable and can cause respiratory problems–besides possibly getting in the way of firefighters.
For more on boondocking, check out my ebook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public lands.
Website: Healthy RV Lifestyle