The weather changed from smoky skies to crisp fall air within the blink of an eye. We have a chance to get outside and enjoy our wild backyard this summer – finally! But don’t be fooled. Wildfire season is not over. The Trestle Creek, Burnt Peak, and South Yaak fires are still uncontained. Lincoln, Sanders, and Bonner county are still under a Stage 2 Fire Restrictions.
Here are some important precautions everyone should take to protect yourself and our wild backyard while recreating during wildfire season.
- Be sure to check the fire maps at https://inciweb.nwcg.gov. It’s important to know precisely where active fires are located to ensure you’re not accidentally walking into harm’s way. Likewise, avoiding the air currents carrying the most smoke will give your lungs a break.
- Consider the air quality. Depending on the Air Quality Index rating, which you can find at http://fire.airnow.gov/ you may want to take a break from the outdoors. Smoke inhalation comes with both short- and long-term health impacts. So when the AQI creeps up into its unhealthiest categories, consider staying indoors.
- Check for road and forest closures. Make sure you check out U.S. Forest Service websites for up-to-date info on its service roads. Both the Panhandle Forest Service and Kootenai Forest Service fire information sites have valuable resources to help you plan your outing right.
- Respect fire bans and restrictions. Hot and dry summer conditions make wildfires extra dangerous. Keep yourself and your neighbors safe by skipping the campfire, disposing of your cigarette butts properly, and taking these other precautions.
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms can include heavy sweating, clammy skin, a fast pulse, dizziness, headaches and more. Heat stroke symptoms can include a throbbing headache, dizziness and light-headedness, lack of sweating and red, hot skin.
- Protect your pets too! If you’re bringing a dog, be sure to pay attention to their condition and know the signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration. Watch your dog for any excessive panting, drooling, reddened gums, muscle tremors, and vomiting or diarrhea. And in general, understand that animal behaviors can be unpredictable in the wildfire season.
- Bring navigation devices including a map and compass. Hiking in smoke can be surprisingly disorienting, even if you’re exploring familiar trails.
For safety in numbers, join FSPW’s guided hikes!