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Forest Flames

Forests cover almost one third of the Earth's land surface. There are over 700 million acres of forest in the United States alone. These areas provide food and shelter for many animals, and people also frequent them to vacation, hike, camp, or simply appreciate the beauty of nature. The trees in forests are used for many things, including fuel and medicine. Along with plants, trees help to put oxygen into the air so we can breathe.

One of the largest threats a forest faces is fire. A fire can begin in seconds, but it is not always so easy to stop. All it takes is a smoldering match, a strike of lightning, or an ember from a vacated campfire to start dry or dead leaves and branches burning. Forest fires can spread very rapidly, and don't only mean danger for the plants and animals that live in them, but for people, homes, and other buildings in the surrounding environment.

When the weather is hot, dry, windy, or the conditions are right for a thunderstorm, the danger of forest fire is present. Foresters keep a constant watch for early signs or warnings of fire. Forestry firefighters study daily weather conditions and develop new methods for fighting and controlling wildfires. One such technique firefighters use to prevent forest fire is "friendly" fire. These small, controlled areas of fire clear excess debris and undergrowth before they have a chance to provide more fuel to a raging wildfire.

Practicing forest safety is crucial to the preservation of the forest environment. You should always be careful and aware of your surroundings when out in the woods. Make sure a campfire is put out completely, and never ignore a glowing ember. Most importantly, always report any sign of fire to a park ranger or forester. You could help prevent or stop a fire before it destroys the forest!

USDA Forest Service

Smokey Bear


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