Almost 90% of forest fires are caused by human negligence, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. This is alarming—especially when it’s always fire season somewhere in the U.S. But it also means that even in the face of climate change, we could prevent most wildfires if everyone would be aware and careful. The first step is to ensure you and people you know follow important guidelines when it comes to your surroundings at home and while enjoying the great outdoors.

Here are some of the top rules. 

Home Fire Rules

DO soak charcoal briquettes and ash with water after grilling. Stir and add water again. (Also consider using a less-polluting gas grill instead.)

DO compost landscaping and gardening waste to return nutrients to the soil instead of burning.

DO make sure, if you do burn waste, that the site is surrounded by gravel or dirt for 10 feet in all directions, and keep the surrounding area watered down and a shovel at the ready. 

DO check the burn area regularly over days and weeks, especially in warm, dry and windy weather. 

DO drown the fire with water to put it out, then turn over the ashes and water it again—several times.

DON’T burn yard trimmings when it’s windy or dry. 

DON’T pile the debris so high that a fire becomes unmanageable. 

DON’T leave any fire unattended.

DON’T start a fire near overhanging limbs, power lines or buildings. 

DON’T ever grind out cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco on a stump or log or throw smoking materials into brush or leaves. Use an ashtray or snuff it out in dirt.

Camp Fire Rules

DO find out if the campsite has an existing firepit. If not, and pits are allowed, choose an open, level location away from brush, low-hanging branches and decaying leaves, and keep it small. 

DO extinguish a campfire with water—not just sand and dirt. 

DO remember, if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. 

DON’T start a campfire when in windy or dry conditions.

DON’T leave a fire unattended. 

DON’T use flammable liquids to start a campfire.  



Photo credit:  U.S. Forest Service

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