Smokey gives a face to fire prevention |

Smokey gives a face to fire prevention

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Smokey Bear, a member of the U.S. Forest Service, promotes fire safety throughout the year. Smokey has been spreading the message since 1944 that people can help prevent wildland fires.

Smokey Bear has been a member of the U.S. Forest Service since 1944. The Smokey Program is used to create and maintain public awareness through the image of Smokey Bear and the need to prevent unplanned, human-caused wildland fires.

When is Northern Nevada’s annual “fire season?”

There are a number of factors that help determine Northern Nevada’s fire season. The amount of moisture we receive during the year and when, temperatures and wind all play a part in determining our fire season. Fire season in Northern Nevada can span from March to November, depending on the elevation.

What is the cause of most wildland fires?

Lightning is still the largest cause of fires, but humans are a close second, and in areas like Reno, the number of human starts is increasing.

Can a fire still happen when it is really cold outside?

Yes, but not very easily. Usually these fires are small and don’t burn with much energy, but on sunny winter days, sometimes even when snow is on the ground, fire can carry in the tops of bushes and trees. These are almost always human-caused fires from campers, hunters or land owners burning debris.

How many fires occur in Nevada in one year?

During the past five years (2000-2005), an average of 1,016 wildland fires have been reported in Nevada each year, burning an average of 679,478 acres of federal, state and private lands. Approximately 1.7 million acres burned in Nevada last year (2005). As of Sept. 18, 1.3 million acres have burned in 2006.

Where do you get the water from to spray on the fire?

Fire trucks and aircraft get the water from fire hydrant systems, but many helicopters can dip water from lakes, ponds and rivers. Some of the larger helicopters can carry up to 2,500 gallons of water and have a snorkel that can suck the water up like a straw.

What can people do to help prevent wildland fires?

Human-caused fires are all preventable. Always know before you go … campfire restrictions are common in Nevada in the summer and frequently last through the fall. Always check with a ranger to see if you can have a campfire where you are going. Never leave a campfire unattended. When you do leave your campsite, ensure that you drown, stir and feel. Drown your campfire with water and dirt; stir the coals while adding water; be sure all burned materials are cold to the touch before you leave. Most campfires that have escaped were left for only a short time or the owners had attempted to put it out, but didn’t understand how to do it properly. In Nevada during the heat of summer, it can take up to five gallons of water to fully extinguish an average-size campfire.

Never use fireworks on public lands. Fireworks are illegal on public lands and start many fires that are difficult to access and spread rapidly. With our dry grasses and windy afternoons driving and parking off of designated roads can be dangerous. Hot catalytic converters and exhaust systems can ignite fine grasses and start a rapidly spreading fire. Lastly, always use your vehicle’s ashtray.

Although the Forest Service has aggressive fire prevention and suppression programs there is always the risk of a wildfire spreading toward homes, especially if you live where grasses and forest meet neighborhoods. Even if you aren’t directly against the wildland you should still have prepared your home for the potential of flying embers carried by fire winds. Create a defensible buffer space around your home and remove flammable vegetation and materials. Homeowners can landscape their yard with fire resistant plants and features. Use fire resistant building materials when remodeling or building a new house. Ensure that entry roads are wide, passable and can allow for a fire engine to turn around. Your home address should be clearly visible for firefighters. More information on how to protect your family and home from wildfire can be found at

Why does the Forest Service sometimes start fires?

There are a couple of reasons why firefighters will start a fire. One reason is to fight fire with fire. “Burnouts” are a technique used on wildfires to burn up fuel in front of an advancing wildfire, starving the fire of the fuels it needs to continue to burn.

Prescribed fire is also used by foresters under low intensity conditions, usually in the spring or the early winter. The purpose of these fires is to help clean up the forest floor of dead, woody debris and to promote healthy vegetation.

What is your real name?

Smokey Bear.