High Park Fire: Reviewing safe camping procedures

High Park Fire seen from Horsetooth Reservoir

Can you imagine a Fourth of July without fireworks? If Colorado doesn’t find a way to control its wildfires this may very well become a reality. Governor John Hickenlooper has issued a statewide fire ban forbidding open burning and private use of fireworks; however, commercial, professional and municipal fireworks shows will still be allowed with written approval. All of this is in response to a number of Colorado fires, the largest of which has now spread to over 83,000 acres.  The state has recorded at least $20 million in damages caused by the High Park Fire and at least 248 homes have been destroyed. This makes it the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history. Caused by lightening, the fire is now commanding the attention of over 2,000 firefighters working in 24-hour shifts, 132 fire engines, 17 helicopters, 41 hand crews and four heavy air tankers. Last Thursday officials declared that 55% of the fire had been contained; however, since then they have lost ground and now have control over a mere 45%. With over half a dozen fires burning across the state this is the most fire-ridden summer in over a decade. Firefighters continue to battle the blaze and residents wait anxiously to return home. Did you know:

  • Approximately 655,200 outdoor fires occur annually in the United States. The result?
    • 50 deaths
    • 875 injuries
    • $154 million in losses
  • 41% of fires in the US occur outdoors
  • Approximately 47% of outdoor fires are trash or rubbish fires (USFA)

With so many fires in the area including Wyoming, New Mexico, and Utah it is especially important to use precautions this summer in order to prevent more fires. Here are some tips to keep in mind while camping and enjoying our beautiful mountains and state parks:

  • Avoid parking vehicles on dry grass.
  • If smoking, make sure there is a three-foot clearing around you. This means avoid smoking where there is dry grass or anything that could catch fire. Dispose of your cigarette in some sort of trash receptacle.
  •  Leave campsites as you found them. Travel on marked trails and roads and avoid leaving anything behind.
  • Use proper fire safety. Avoid taking burning sticks out of the fire, do not light fireworks outdoors, and inspect your campsite before you leave.
  • Place stoves, lanterns, and heaters a good distance from combustibles.
  • Never use stoves, lanterns, heaters, or any other flame inside a tent. (Smokey Bear)

In the US, the leading cause of outdoor fires is unintentional neglect or misuse of materials. With this in mind we should all try to be especially careful when handling an open flame or flammable materials outdoors. Please keep the evacuees of the High Park fire in your thoughts as our noble firefighters do what they can to contain the fire and minimize damage.  

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