Despite Mammoth’s early snow this year there is always a chance for wildfires during summer and fall due to dry conditions. Even after wet winters and precipitation in the summer, wildfires are always a serious threat to the Eastern Sierra wilderness and all who live there.
If you’re visiting Mammoth Lakes when there are dry conditions, then you must be aware of fire safety and the risk posed by starting a campfire. To help spread awareness, the ASO Mammoth team has put together a quick guide to wildfire prevention. Check it out below and take every step possible to prevent wildfires in the Eastern Sierras!
Follow the Rules
Although wildfires can be started by natural occurrences like lightning strikes, they are most often started by people unintentionally. Whether it’s due to the use of fireworks, not properly managing a campfire, or other negligence, most fire-starters can be avoided by simply being aware and paying attention to your surroundings.
Most wilderness areas, national forests, or national parks will post signs describing the current wildfire risk and prohibited activities along the main road into the area. It is incredibly important that you’re not only aware of high-risk conditions, but that you follow the regulations listed below. Do not think that you can get away with having a campfire or light a barbecue when there are restrictions against it. Wildfires can be sparked by a car accident or even just a dropped cigarette, so if you do not follow the rules you’re making a risky situation even worse.
Find a Safe Campfire Spot
Even if you’re somewhere without dry conditions, you should still make sure that your campfire isn’t a danger to the surrounding people and wilderness.
If your campsite allows fires, then the first place you should look to start one is in an existing firepit. If you cannot find an existing firepit, then you should build yours at least 15 feet away from any tents, shrubs, trees, and other flammable objects. Along with proximity to flammable objects, you should consider how exposed your firepit is to the wind. Winds can spread embers for miles, so you should build your fire somewhere that is protected from wind gusts. Lastly, your campfire should be on level ground to prevent your fire from spreading as the wood falls apart.
Build a Safe Campfire
Once you have your location chosen, the first step is to clear flammable debris such as leaves and sticks within 10 feet of your fire. Next, you’ll need to dig a hole that will allow embers to fall and escape being picked up by any wind gusts. Your hole should be a foot deep. Lastly, surround the hole with rocks to keep the fire from spreading outwards as well as to keep any other fuel sources from falling into the fire. Once you’ve cleared the area, dug your pit, and surrounded it with rocks, you’re ready to build your fire!
After you’ve collected your fuel and stacked it in your pit, make sure you a sufficient amount of water to put out the fire quickly if you need to. Once you do, you can ignite your fire with a match or lighter. If you use a match, then you should wait until the match has cooled down enough for you to touch it before dropping it into the fire to prevent a potential wildfire.
Once your fire is lit, it’s important that you always keep an eye on it and never let it grow too large. You must always keep your fire small and under control, and once you’re done make sure it is completely extinguished by dousing the ashes and embers with water.