Experts estimate that up to 90% of non-lightning-caused wildfires are caused by human activity As the number of people living, working, and playing in high fire-risk areas has grown, so has the number of human-caused fires.
Common causes include outdoor burning, gas-powered equipment use, campfires, fireworks, off-road vehicle use, and smoking. It’s crucial to practice fire safety to avoid starting wildfires. In the late summer and fall, fire fuels are at their most mature and in their driest condition.
According to the Keep Oregon Green Association, “The careless use of power equipment in and around forests is the second leading human cause of Oregon wildfires. Power equipment brings sources of heat, like sparks and friction, fuels like gasoline, and electrical arcing in close proximity to forest fuels.”
Here are examples of things to watch out for:
• Hot exhaust (sparks) or exhaust pipes, even from hand power equipment such as chain saws.
• Trail bikes, cars, ATVs, motorcycles, trucks, and farm vehicles all have the potential to ignite dry fuel.
• Mowing or cutting weeds that have dried out. If a gas-powered mower or weed whacker hits a rock and causes a spark, the dry grass or weeds will ignite, causing a wildfire.
• Fuels such as gasoline or oil for these kinds of equipment, if not properly stored and handled, can also increase the risk of wildfires.
• Electric wiring, such as an electric fence, can short out, start a fire in grasses, and brush as we ll.
When you’re planning outdoor recreation, find out ahead of time about restrictions on fires and equipment operation in the area you’ll be in, and then abide by those restrictions.
• Put out cigarettes properly in your ashtray or with water, or by grinding them in the dirt where there’s nothing flammable in a 3’ circle.
• Don’t bring fireworks.
• Attend your campfire (if allowed) and make sure it’s completely out before going anywhere.
• Be careful with charcoal or propane grills.
• Use spark arrestors on any gas powered equipment or vehicles.
• Don’t operate vehicles in closed areas.
What it comes down to is using common sense and being extra careful in all your outdoor activities. Be aware when you are working with or handling a source of ignition, especially around dry grass or fuels.