Friday, September 5, 2014

Protecting Our Wilderness: Practice Campfire Safety

By Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

When actress Betty White can't sleep, she relives her childhood memories of camping in the Sierra Mountains. She says, “I can smell that air. I can hear the wind in the pines. It's where my soul is.”

Betty White is a supporter of the Wilderness Society—one of the nation’s top conservation organizations. The group is eager this month to share its accomplishments, as September is National Wilderness Month and this year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Act has helped preserve and protect over 110 million acres of wilderness in the United States—affording us a place to unplug, slow down, learn, and play, as well as saving the natural habitats of hundreds of species of plants, trees and animals.

As fall approaches in Texas, when the nights get longer and cooler, many will enjoy getting outdoors and appreciating a warm fire whether it is in our state parks or the backyard fire pit. To help further protect our beautiful land, always do your part and practice campfire safety.

Campfire Safety Tips
Always follow these eight tips when building a campfire.
  1. Do not build a fire if the area you are in is under a burn ban or burn restrictions.
  2. Use existing fire rings when making a campfire. If no fire rings are available, build your own. Start by picking a flat spot at least 15 feet away from tents, picnic tables, shrubs, trees or any other flammable object. Dig a pit one foot deep and surround the top of the pit with rocks, creating a fire ring.
  3. Fill a bucket with water and keep it close to the fire, as well as keeping a shovel handy.
  4. After lighting your tinder and kindling, slowly add larger pieces of wood one at a time to control the size of your campfire. 
  5. Never leave a fire unsupervised.
  6. Closely monitor children and pets around a campfire.
  7. Before turning in for the night, completely extinguish the campfire until it is cold. Let all pieces of wood burn down to ash. Pour water over the entire fire, not just hot embers. With your shovel, stir the ashes and embers making sure they are all wet. Alternatively, extinguish the fire using dirt and sand. Shovel dirt onto the fire, while stirring the embers and ashes until it is all covered and cold. 
  8. Do not burn aerosol cans, glass, or aluminum cans. The only safe trash to throw in a fire is food scraps. 
Treating Minor Burns

Burns are categorized into four classes; first, second, third and fourth degree burns. First and second-degree burns generally can be treated at home, while medical professionals must see third degree and fourth degree burns immediately.

First and second-degree burns are characterized by reddening of the skin, pain, swelling, and possible blistering. However, if the minor burn covers a large area of the hands, feet, face, groin, major joint, backside or covers an area larger than three inches, call 911. Third degree burns do not turn red, but skin will look white or charred and due to nerve damage, most likely the victim will not feel pain. Fourth degree burns affect all layers of the skin, plus the muscles, tendons and ligaments underneath the skin. These burns are usually fatal.

If someone is burned, always remove the source of the burn first. Run cool water over the area for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove any jewelry or tight fitting clothing in case the area swells. You may apply burn cream or Aloe Vera. Then, lightly cover the burn with a bandage. Never intentionally pop blisters.

Burns can get worse over time, so keep an eye on the wound. If it appears infected, call the doctor.

If you suspect the burn is more than a minor first or second-degree burn, treat it as a third degree burn. First, extinguish the flames and call 911. Remove any clothing or material that is smoldering, unless it is sticking to the victim’s skin. Never remove clothing that sticks to a burn victim’s skin. Do not put water or cream on the burn. Wrap it in a sterile gauze or clean sheet. Have the burn victim lie down until medical help arrives and treat them for shock. Keep the burned area elevated above the heart if possible.

Remember, it only takes a spark to get a fire going. 1,190,000 acres have burned in America this year alone. Help prevent more wildfires by always practicing campfire safety while enjoying the great outdoors.

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