In recent years, wildfires have caused widespread destruction in America’s western states. Colorado is no exception. Though the state is relatively cool and receives an average annual precipitation of 15.47 inches, parts of the state—especially in the south—are susceptible to wildfire outbreak. The San Juan National Forest receives a lot of rainfall, but increasing temperatures lead to increased rates of evaporation, further drying the environment. As a result, those visiting this part of the state should remain cautious and vigilant in their prevention of wildfires.

Recently, in July of 2018, there were over one dozen wildfires burning across Colorado. The 416 fire, which spanned 54,129 acres, hit just north of Durango, spreading into the southern part of San Juan National Forest. Though Durango fire crews worked to contain the blaze, San Juan National Forest took over on Tuesday, July 24th. The destruction caused by wildfires is absolutely devastating to natural environments and ecosystems.

To aid in wildfire prevention, we’ve produced this short refresher course on forest fire prevention. Though lightning strikes and dry conditions may create wildfires, humans are the largest contributing factor. With the below steps, visitors to San Juan will be able to decrease the chances of starting a blaze in this incredibly fragile part of the country.

Campfires. If you are camping in San Juan, only light fires in designated areas and fire circles. Before starting a fire, check your area’s wildfire alert system to ensure that conditions are safe for an open flame. Do not make excessively large fires (3ft wide maximum), and keep blazes at least ten feet away from any potential combustibles. Only burn firewood, and keep a shovel and supply of water nearby to quickly put out the fire in the case of an emergency.

Fireworks. Inappropriately-used fireworks contribute to wildfires. In Colorado, all types of fireworks with a fuse, as well as those requiring a flame for ignition, are illegal. Don’t buy them, and certainly don’t bring them into the forest.

Cigarettes. If you choose to smoke within the San Juan National Forest, always dispose of your cigarettes in places where they cannot be the source of ignition. When possible, place your cigarette butt into a cup of water after use. Ashtrays also work, but ensure they are contained and that a lit butt cannot blow toward sources of ignition.

Vehicles. Cars are the primary mode of transportation for much of the San Juan National Forest. We encourage visitors to be mindful of the role vehicles play in starting wildfires. Never park your vehicle on dry vegetation, as the heat from the exhaust can cause it to ignite. Additionally, ensure that any off-road vehicle you may use has a working spark arrester.