It’s that time when many of us spin up our Jeeps and OHV’s, hit the skinny pedal, conquer the trails, and find a campsite in the wildlands! Summer is here. But so is the season of wildfires.
If you live in a wildfire prone area, I’d like to offer some tips based on my decades of fire service endorsed by Metalcloak, ModernJeeper, and ModernJeeper Adventures so as avoid the massive destruction we have seen in some western states the last few years.
First, it’s important to note that we are in the worst drought (in many areas) nearly ever! Vegetation in the forests and deserts is dry beyond belief. Moisture in fuels is at an all time low. Forested areas are overgrown and under-harvested — some National Forests look like what we used to call “dog-haired thickets.” That means crowning fires in the tree tops are quite likely to spread beyond the control capabilities of our fire service.
None of this is good news for motorized recreation. But there are things we can all do. This is by no means comprehensive, but meant to be a serious reminder of the simple things we can do to prevent disaster (and trail closures). Yes, trails will close after large wildfires as we have learned especially in places like California. So please take these tips to heart.
- MUFFLERS/SPARK ARRESTORS: This should not be a question — equip your rig/Jeep the right way and do not be the cause of a wildfire with an inadvertent spark or blast of hot carbon from your muffler.
- STAY ON THE TRAIL: Most trails are well used enough that it’s safe to travel without fear of starting a fire — if you stay on the trail (and make sure you adhere to #1 above). If you have to legally pull over, do not do it in a dry grassy area where hot pipes can ignite fuels.
- TAKE CARE WITH CAMPFIRES: Western fire season restrictions usually curtail campfires, but if you are in an area where a small campfire is OK, FOLLOW all the rules of your fire permit and common sense that says avoid windy days, clear a big enough space around the campfire site, have water, shovel and even a fire extinguisher handy, and never leave a campfire unattended. Cool off (water) any unattended campfire you come across.
- REPORT UNEXPLAINED SMOKE: If you see smoke off in the distance, report it. That means you should have radio/cell communications capable of letting you save the day.
- OBEY LAND MANAGER RULES: If your USFS/BLM/State recreation area has fire restrictions you should go out of your way to obey them — completely. Don’t try to “cheat” and just have a “little campfire” where it’s not allowed. You could be the next headlines in the social media and press.
- DO YOUR PART: If you live or have a cabin in the wildlands, do your part to clear your fire defense space according to your local fire department. Do not let something spread from your property onto our recreational lands.
- WELDING: It’s great that so many of us are handy with tools and welders for trail repairs. Heck, I have an under-hood welder in my Jeep at all times. BUT…welding starts a lot of fires. Use extreme caution and fire standby gear if you HAVE to weld. Clear an area. Put someone on fire watch. Have your shovel, fire extinguisher and water within reach.
- SMOKING:Smoke in cleared areas or in your vehicle. Dispose of butts and smokes in a water cup or enclosed container.
- FIREWORKS: Probably a no-no in almost all forested (and some desert) areas. They are just not a good idea, period, during fire season. Follow and obey all local laws and rules governing fireworks.
Welding in a cleared, safe area.
We are thankful that we now have the Post Wildfire OHV Recovery Alliance in place to help restore trails and OHV infrastructure after big wildfires. Learn more about PWORA at http://www.pwora.org.
Stacie Albright and I encourage you to follow these tips so we can all continue to enjoy the great outdoors without any more unnecessary wildfires.
The future of our trails and motorized recreation in the west hinges on all of us using common sense and following these simple tips to avoid wildfires.