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Health, Science and Environment

Recent rain showers don't eliminate the danger of campfires

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Despite recent rainfall, fire officials say if you’re celebrating this holiday weekend you should enjoy your campfire with caution. 

Wet trees and leaves won’t completely fend off the dangers of your campfire. Debra-Ann Brabazon is the Wildfire Prevention, Mitigation Education and Fire Information Specialist for the Huron-Manistee National Forest. She said the rain might slow the spread of fire, but flames can still catch on debris near the campfire.

“Things like grasses and mosses, and small shrubs are actually one hour fuels that will actually, will hold water, but in an hour of extreme situations, they’ll begin to dry out and cure quickly,” Brabazon said.

It can take anywhere from one to three hours for this debris to dry out, and once they do, they aid in spreading fire. Brabazon also notes that low-danger fires do not mean no danger at all.

“Low does not mean no, low just means, fuels don’t ignite readily from small fire brands, although more intense heat sources such as lightning can start fires in dead or punky wood,” Brabazon said.

It's important to follow fire safety guidelines, whether you're camping out in the woods, or spending the weekend in a residential area. If you're visiting a cabin or vacation home, Brabazon says to clear out any clutter or flamable material before you even begin your fire. 

Many people try to start their fires with gasoline, but this can increase risk, because small  particles from the gas can spread themselves onto the ground around a campfire, allowing grass and leaves to catch fire. Debris inside of gutters is also vulnurable to catching fire.

Brabazon said people can safely enjoy their fire by staying up-to-date on fire danger in the area, removing any flammable materials within a ten-foot diameter, and keeping your fire small, not tall.