Preventing Wildfires

Forests are amazing places covering almost a third of the Earth’s land, including over 700 million acres in the United States (that’s about 529 million football fields!). Forests are home to a huge variety of plants and animals, providing them with food, water and shelter. Our forests are very valuable. Not only are they places of beauty and outdoor fun, we also rely on trees for fuel, food, raw materials and medicine. Even more importantly, trees and plants in the forest make sure that the Earth’s temperature is livable and that we have enough oxygen to breathe.

Wildfires are unplanned and unwanted fires that are very dangerous to people who use the forests and outdoor areas or live in nearby homes and communities. Wildfires can also cause a lot of damage to some plants and animals and their homes.

In some cases fire is good for a forest, but unplanned fires that burn too hot can make it hard for the forest to recover. Can a forest ever recover from wildfire? The answer is yes, but unfortunately, it can take a very long time. An average forest is about 70–100 years old, and the trees in some forests can be 4,000–5,000 years old!

In 2019, 87% of wildfires were caused by humans, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. From 2001 through 2014, almost 63,000 wildfires occurred each year from human carelessness, and those fires burned an average of 2,560,000 acres each year. In 2016, data showed just under nine out of ten wildfires were still caused by humans nationally. Considering population growth in the United States and the increase of outdoor recreation users and people living next to and within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), this is actually improvement. We still have a lot of work to do. Children need to hear and learn about Smokey Bear and his wildfire prevention message, and adults need to be continually reminded of the need to prevent human-caused wildfires from equipment use, dragging chains, parking on dry grass, backyard debris burning, and of course, campfires.

Smokey Bear has been educating the public about fire safety since the 1940’s and he is still on a mission.

To help protect these amazing places, remember Smokey’s Five Rules of Wildfire Prevention:

  1. Only YOU can prevent wildfires
  2. Always be careful with fire
  3. Never play with matches or lighters
  4. Always watch your campfire
  5. Make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving it

There’s nothing quite like enjoying the great outdoors with a roaring fire, gooey s’mores and a night sky full of stars. But that wonderful campfire is also a big responsibility. Smokey needs your help preventing wildfires so more families like yours can enjoy this experience in beautiful forests, other wildlands, and even your backyard, for years to come. That’s why it’s important to learn how to be safe with your campfire.

Learn how to be safe with your campfire: 

How to pick your campfire spot

Hikers holding a map

     How to prepare your campfire pit

A shovel being pushed into the ground
Campfire in a ring of stones
A burning campfire

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