NBCRightNow.com - When you take that ATV, dirt bike or full-sized vehicle out in the forest this summer, make sure it doesn't blaze a trail - literally. Only a few seconds of contact between dry grass and a hot catalytic converter or tailpipe can start a fire.
OFF-ROAD DRIVING TIPS Follow these basic tips when you ride or drive off-road to prevent an enjoyable outing from turning into a costly, damaging wildfire:
- Inspect the exhaust system on an ATV/ highway vehicle to ensure it is undamaged, functioning properly and free of grass and twigs. (Regularly inspect the undercarriage to ensure that fuel and brake lines are intact and no oil leaks are apparent.) - Operate ATVs on established roads and trails, and park on gravel surfaces or developed roadside pull-outs. Avoid driving or riding where dry vegetation can contact the exhaust system. Never park over tall, dry grass or piles of brush that can touch the underside of a vehicle. - Follow recreational forest laws during fire season. - Respect private forestlands and their designated closure areas. - Always carry an approved fire extinguisher on vehicles that are used off-road.
Other tips related to vehicle maintenance can help ensure your visit to the forest doesn't end in flames:
- Check tire pressure - driving on an exposed wheel rim can cause sparks. - Check your brake pads for wear - metal-on-metal likewise makes sparks. - Make sure chains and other metal parts aren't dragging from your vehicle.
"RV'ers also have a role in wildfire safety," advises Interim Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. "Make sure to check that your cooking appliances, generator, and propane system are all working correctly, keeping fire safety awareness with you wherever you go."
DEBRIS BURNING TIPS Cleaning up your backyard prior to summer can help prevent a wildfire from encroaching. But if burning the resulting debris is the only option, take care that your burn pile doesn't become a wildfire.
- Call before you burn - Check with your local Oregon Dept. of Forestry district, fire protective association or air protection authority to learn if there are any current burning restrictions or regulations, and whether a permit is required. - Never burn on dry or windy days. - Clear a 10-foot radius around your burn pile - And make sure there are no tree branches or power lines above. - Keep your burn pile small - It's less likely to escape control if it is kept small. - Have a charged water hose, bucket of water, and shovel and dirt or sand nearby to put out the fire. - Attend your burn at all times - A burn left unattended for only a few minutes can grow into a costly, damaging wildfire. - Make sure it's out - Completely extinguish your debris burn before leaving.
DEFENSIBLE SPACE TIPS Creating "defensible space" around your home and property simply means to maintain the landscape to reduce fire danger and provide safe access to firefighters so they can protect it. The national Firewise Communities Program advises homeowners to:
- Keep the roof and rain gutters clear of leaves. - Remove fuel sources close to the house. - Maintain landscaping to prevent a ground fire from reaching the structure.