Frequently Asked Questions

To Report a Fire Call 911

Terminology

Restrictions and Closures

Recreational Use

Prescribed Burns

Defensible Space

Other Fire Information


Recreational Use Information

Q: What is considered a campfire?

A:  A fire, not within any building, mobile home, or living accommodation mounted on a vehicle, which is used for cooking, branding, personal warmth, lighting, ceremonial or aesthetic purposes. Campfires are open fires, usually built on the ground, from native fuels or charcoal, including charcoal grills.

Q: What is a developed recreational site?

A: A developed recreation site is signed as an agency-owned campground or picnic area. It is an area that has been improved or developed for recreation and may include all or some of the following: picnic tables, manufactured fire rings, manufactured pedestal grills, lantern hooks, surfaced areas for site furnishings and tent pads, potable drinking water, toilet facilities, designated roads and parking, and fee collection area.

Q: What is an improved site?

A: An area that has been cleared and has an established fire barrier that restricts fire spread. These areas also include improvements such as picnic tables and/or toilets.


Prescribed Burns

Q: We are on fire restrictions in some areas, yet you are burning. Why?

A. The conditions which make it the right time to conduct a prescribed burn, are the same conditions that make it dangerous for you. In order for fire to give us good results, we need dry conditions. The conditions necessary for this burn are: lower fuel moistures, lower relative humidity, higher temperatures, and 10-15 mph winds.

We have taken all precautions to ensure we can burn safely. We will not burn until we meet all the conditions, including expected weather, predicted winds, a good plan and having adequate firefighting resources like helicopters, crews and tanker either on site or quickly available. We don’t begin a burn unless we feel there is an acceptably low level of risk.

Q. How can you be sure this fire will not escape?

A. Any use of fire has an element of danger and sometimes weather predictions are wrong or change. However, we feel there is a greater hazard in not burning and allowing a build up of fuels. It’s better to have smaller, low intensity, controlled burns than wait for one large, uncontrolled wildfire.

Our prescribed fire program is designed to reduce risks in the long run. In many areas, fire is going to occur. We cannot stop nature from doing what it has done for millions of years. We try and use natural processes. In some cases, our success at preventing fires for nearly a century has altered natural processes. We are trying to return the ecosystem to a more natural balance, but it takes a lot of care to do this properly. If we tried to stop fires from occurring (which cannot be done), we would surely have major catastrophes as fuels continued to build up to unnatural levels.

Q. What happens if after starting the burn, winds change or increase dramatically?

A. If that happens, we will stop creating new fire, and engines, crews, and helicopters on site will start fire suppression. We have additional crews already identified and available to come to assist if needed.

Q. What if you have all these people and resources committed to this fire and another fire starts somewhere else on the forest. You can’t just walk away from this one.

A. We still have adequate resources to start initial attack on anything else that starts. Even though we will have the people we need to burn safely, only a small percentage of our available resources will be used on this fire. We have pulled in engines and crews from other areas to assist us in our fire prevention and suppression due to the fire situation we are in now. This is standard procedure. Fire fighting resources across the United States are available to respond anywhere on a moments notice.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise coordinates this and has procedures in place. Every geographic area of the country is part of this network. The fire fighting capability in this country is set up to respond and has done this successfully for years.


Defensible Space

Q. What is defensible space?

A. Defensible space is the area between a house or other buildings and an oncoming wildfire in which vegetation and other burnable material has been modified to reduce the wildfire threat. By doing simple things like removing overhanging limbs on trees near a house, mowing weeds, maintaining a lawn, moving firewood away from the building, replacing a cedar shake roof with a composite shingle roof, and many other simple modifications, you can provide a space where firefighters can better defend a home.

Q. I live in the forest because I love the trees and privacy. By creating Defensible Space, I’m afraid I will lose the reason I built here.

Defensible space does NOT mean clearing all trees and vegetation from around a house. A home can still have attractive vegetation, including trees and shrubs and still meet defensible space standards. You may remove a few trees or even remove lower branches so a fire burning on the ground cannot climb into treetops. Think of an oncoming wildfire as needing continuous fuels so the fire can spread. If you break this continuity, you stop the fire or at least the intensity of the fire. Sometimes, something as simple a thing as replacing a small conifer tree or bush with a deciduous one may be beneficial.

Q. Doesn’t this require special landscaping skills or knowledge of fire?

A. No. Many tasks involve normal gardening or landscape maintenance practices. Pruning, weeding, mowing, irrigation, cleanup of woody debris are common sense things you can do. There are fire and defensible space experts than can visit your property and give advice. Contact Firewise.com or other web sites for advice or examples. Your local fire department can often help you. Your local County Extension office or public land management office may be able to give some advice or give you references.

Q. What if I do defensible space and my neighbors don’t?

A. It depends on your specific situation. Talk to your neighbors and tell them your concerns. You still should make whatever changes you can. Set an example for your neighbors. Sometimes people have misconceptions that defensible space means removing all vegetation. Explain that a fire can threaten everyone, therefore everyone needs to work together. Ask local fire departments to talk to the entire neighborhood. Sometimes, having a local fire department tell a property owner that if a fire occurred, they cannot respond to save the house because of danger to firefighters might be enough to get the attention of the reluctant property owner.

Q. I knew someone who did defensible space and they still had to evacuate. What good does it do?

A. There are no guarantees. Defensible space is a way to greatly improve your odds of saving your home. Even if you do a good job creating defensible space, you still need to pay attention to periods of high fire danger. If conditions are extreme and you live in a fire prone area, think ahead and plan. Identify valuables and those things you cannot replace. Photo albums, memorabilia, financial records—these are things that may be impossible to replace. You can always buy new furniture, clothes and books. Often you may only have a few minutes to throw your valuables in a car and escape with your life. When the real thing happens, it is usually a time of chaos and panic.


Other Fire Information

Q. Why isn’t cloud seeding used to assist in times of drought and in fire prevention?

A. The short answer is we don’t know if it works and we don’t fully understand potential side effects. Cloud seeding has been tried since 1947 in the United States, Japan, Israel, South Africa and many other places. The official position of the National Academy of Sciences is that there is no proof it works. We know that the introduction of some form of particles, usually silver iodide, assists moisture in a cloud form around that particle, building up to create an ice crystal or raindrop. Some research has shown up to a 10% increase in rainfall from cloud seeding, but scientists remain skeptical. They say they need much more research to make further conclusions. Undesirable side effects include hail, decrease in rainfall, effects downwind (increased rain in one place may mean decreased rain in another; the political implications of just this one issue are enormous. Cause and effect is not proven, and many think the cost exceeds any potential benefits. Weather modification should not be viewed as drought relief, according to many scientists.


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