KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Unintentional actions are the leading cause of outdoor fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
FOX 17 talked with an expert to learn about what community members should keep in mind this summer.
This comes as Clean Air Action Days continue this week with elevated levels of ozone in the air making things particularly uncomfortable for people with breathing problems.
“The best thing to do right now, if people are having difficulty breathing, they actually should stay indoors in air-conditioned areas,” Michael McLeieer, president of E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety, said. “A mall may be a great place to go for a walk, or go to a restaurant, go to a movie theater.”
READ MORE: West Michigan air quality
Humans cause 84% of wildfires— burning debris outside starts the most human-caused fires.
"A small spark, a small ember can become a very big fire in just a matter of moments, so you won't have time to go an get something. It's better to have a shovel, a fire extinguisher and also that water source readily available so that if that fire were to get out of control, you can immediately address that right then and there," McLeieer explained.
E.S.C.A.P.E. gave FOX 17 the following outdoor fire safety tips to keep in mind:
- Check the Michigan DNR Burn Permits Map to see if there is a burning ban in place.
- Keep fire pits at least three-feet away from your home or anything else that could catch on fire.
- Do not throw cigarettes out of windows of a moving vehicle— this can catch dry roadside grass on fire.
- Never use flammable liquids (like gasoline) to start a campfire— only use approved charcoal lighter fluid and following the directions when lighting a charcoal grill.
- Avoid riding an ATV (dirt bike, four-wheeler, side-by-side, etc.) in tall, dry grass or brush— Hot exhaust pipes can start the grass on fire, and you may not notice the fire until it's too late.
- Make sure your ATV (or other gas-powered equipment) has an approved spark arrestor.
- Check your tire pressure on all vehicles— driving on an exposed wheel rim can cause sparks.
- Never let your brake pads wear too thin— metal on metal can create sparks.
- When towing a recreational vehicle (RV), keep trailer chains off the ground to prevent sparks that can cause accidental wildfires.
The Grand Rapids Fire Department says crews responded to two grill fires in 24 hours. Tips to keep in mind when grilling include:
- Make sure nothing is within three feet of an active grill and keep grills at least ten feet away from all structures.
- Ensure all hoses and connections aren’t leaking and in good condition before use.
- Don’t light a grill on flammable surfaces (e.g. wooden decks).
- Open gas grills before lighting them.
- Always keep an eye on active grills and keep pets and children away from them while in use.
- Clean grills after using them to prevent grease buildup. Clean grease traps frequently.
- Throw coals away inside a metal container after they cool off, and keep receptacles away from flammable materials.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shared the following ways people can reduce the risk of their homes and property becoming fuel for a wildfire:
- Clear: Make sure to clear off pine needles, dead leaves and anything else that can burn from your roof, gutter, deck, porch, patio and fence lines. That way, falling embers will have nothing to burn.
- Store Away: Put away furniture cushions, rattan mats, potted plants and other decorations on your deck, porch and patio. These items catch embers and help ignite your home if you leave them outside.
- Screen and Seal: Wind-borne embers can get into homes easily through vents and other openings, and burn the home from the inside out. Walk around your home to see what openings you can screen or temporarily seal.
- Rake: Embers landing in mulch that touches your home, deck or fence can be a big fire hazard. Rake out any landscaping mulch to at least five feet away.
- Trim: Cut down any shrubs or tree branches that come closer than five feet to your home.
- Remove: Walk around your home and get rid of anything within 30 feet that could burn, such as woodpiles, spare lumber, cars and boats— anything that could act as a large fuel source.
- Close: If ordered to evacuate, make sure to shut all windows and doors tightly, including any pet doors. Many homes get destroyed by embers entering these openings.
"We want to make sure we prevent fires from happening. Our firefighters are already busy enough and we need to make sure, again, we do what we can in our own homes and in our own neighborhoods to prevent that fire from happening," McLeieer said.
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