From Spark to Safety: Key Practices to Prevent Wildfires Skip to main content


From Spark to Safety: Key Practices to Prevent Wildfires


Summer. The seasonal favorite of school-age children, beach bums, and water sports enthusiasts alike. Humans spend extended periods outdoors, making the most of the additional sunlight with picnics, barbecues, and outdoor cornhole tournaments. With these summer festivities and celebrations often come bonfires and fireworks, which can have one unfortunate side-effect: wildfires.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, aka NOAA), 55,571 wildfires spanned 2,633,636 acres in 2023. Of these wildfires, 50,697 fires, 1,533,245 by acre, were caused by humans (National Interagency Fire Center). This means that roughly 87-90% of all wildfires are humanity’s fault; last year’s fires burned the equivalent of all of the Everglades National Park in Florida or the entire acreage of Delaware. While these statistics are stark, it’s important to note that hope isn’t lost. Just as we have the power to start wildfires, we have the power to prevent them. Continue reading to learn the causes of wildfires as well as tips to stop them before they can start.

Discarded cigarettes, unattended fires, equipment malfunctions, burning debris/yard waste, and fireworks are the most common human-caused wildfire causes. Let’s examine the impact of each and ways to prevent wildfires.

  • Discarded cigarettes: Throwing cigarettes on the ground can spark a fire, especially on dead, dry vegetation. After fully extinguishing the burn, discard cigarettes in appropriate receptacles.
  • Unattended fires: Campfires are a great way to build camaraderie and ambiance in a social setting. However, they should never be left unattended and must be fully extinguished before leaving the scene. Pour water on campfires until you can no longer hear hissing or see steam. Use a shovel to move the ashes around and cover them with water. Continue until the ashes are cool to the touch and all heat has been extinguished.
  • Equipment use or malfunctions: While maintaining your vehicle is necessary for your own safety, it can also be vital for wildfire prevention. Brakes that are worn too thin or chains that are dragging can spark fires. The use of tractors, lawnmowers, weed eaters, chainsaws, or other power equipment can all cause fires if misused or in the wrong weather conditions. Automobiles can be a cause for fires if dry grass or brush comes in prolonged contact with a hot engine, muffler, or exhaust. Watch where you park! Also, if you suspect a gas leak in your neighborhood or see downed power lines, report them immediately. It only takes a moment to relate the information, yet it can avert devastating consequences.
  • Burning Debris/Yard Waste: Burning yard waste and debris in an inappropriate area can cause fires to spread. First, it’s essential to check if burning yard waste is legal in your state or municipality. If it is legal, check for burn bans and make sure you have a burn permit (if required). Then, check the weather conditions to ensure they are favorable. Avoid burning during arid, windy conditions, and choose a safe burning site away from powerlines, overhanging limbs, buildings, vehicles, and equipment. You’ll need at least three times the height of the pile of vertical clearance (
  • Fireworks: Although they are a fantastic visual spectacle to add to any celebration or party, they are not without risks. The North Carolina Forest Service recommends to “Always use fireworks in a large, open, preferably paved area or near a body of water.” Additionally, do not aim fireworks at dry vegetation, wooded areas, or any material that is likely to catch fire.

At American Forest Management, we want to help you and your family stay safe this summer. Equipped with these easy-to-follow instructions, you can enjoy the festivities all summer long. If you want to know more about wildfire prevention, read our blog post about avoiding wildfires at home.