Staying safe during the dry season

We are well into summer, the trees are green and the weather is warm; and while we have all been enjoying the sun and warm weather, it’s important to remember that even in summer, three days without rain will dry pine trees out and they become highly flammable. Five days without rain, and low humidity on top of it, stresses the trees and makes the forest even more prone to fire.

With the low humidity and lack of rain for the next few days, the fire danger looks to be high to very high through the rest of the week. So there will be a lot of people, a lot of campfires, and visitors should be extra careful with where and how they build their campfires this weekend.

If you are going to build a campfire this weekend here’s how to pick your spot and dig your fire pit:

  • DO NOT build a fire at a site in hazardous, dry conditions.
  • DO NOT build a fire if the campground, area, or event rules prohibit campfires.
  • In campgrounds – use the existing fire ring/pit instead of digging a new one.
  • Outside of campgrounds, when dispersed camping, look for a site that is at least fifteen feet away from tent walls, shrubs, trees or other flammable objects. Also beware of low-hanging branches overhead.
  • Choose a spot that’s downwind protected from wind gusts, and at least 15 feet from your tent and gear.
  • Clear a 10-foot diameter area around the site. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves and firewood. Also make sure there aren’t any tree limbs or flammable objects hanging overhead.
  •  Dig a pit in the dirt, about a foot deep.
  • Circle the pit with rocks.
  • Fill the pit with small pieces of dry, dead wood; never rip or cut branches from living trees.
  • Place your unused firewood upwind and away from the fire.

Remember the simple, but necessary steps to take to help reduce the risk of wildfires:

  • Always check to see if burning permits are being issued before burning debris. Visit the MI-DNR’s website to find out if permits are being issued in your area: If permits are not being issued – DON’T BURN.
  • Always check the weather before building any type of fire, dry, windy weather will contribute significantly to the spread of wildfire. And wind can cause fires to grow quickly, or change direction quickly.
  • Always keep a water bucket or hose nearby when having a campfire, bonfire or burning debris.

Remember to never leave a fire unattended:

  • Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible
  • Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones
  • Pour until hissing sound stops
  • Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel
  • Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers
  • Stir and make sure everything is wet and they are cold to the touch
  • If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool.
  • Remember: do NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire. Never walk away from burning debris.

Visit Smokey Bear online for more tips at his webpage: or friend him on Facebook at And if you see a wildfire, remember to call 911.