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Expedition Essentials: Forest Wildfire Prevention Skills 101

In light of the toxic fumes engulfing the Detroit area right now, here's a short guide on how to effectively and safely enjoy a campfire - without starting a wildfire that engulfs our entire corner of the Great Lakes region.

In case you've been living under a rock this past week, you've probably realized that things have become a little smokey around Detroit. Scratch that, our environment has become dangerously smokey. Yesterday, Detroit's air quality at one point ranked second-worst in the world, topped out only by the horrid atmospheric conditions in New Delhi, India. The cumulative apocalyptic effect of two wildfires in northern Michigan, plus the 150 wildfires that are currently burning in Quebec, have prompted public health officials to encourage outdoor use of N95 masks again.

Yeah. For the next few days, we're back to those kinds of messages again.

Here's the uncomfortable truth about all of this: as experts continue to expect global temperatures to rise, the likelihood of widespread wildfires is predicted to rise in tandem. Dryer than normal conditions means that environment turns into natural tinder, ready to ignite from even the most minuscule of sources - cigarette butts, sparks from dangling trailer chains, overheated landscaping equipment, and certainly careless campfire starters. Beyond the hazy skies and Star Wars-esque orange sunsets, this wildfire smoke causes a litany of health issues. Shortness of breath, an elevated pulse, chest pain, inflammation in the eyes, nose, and throat, and even long-term health issues like cancer or lung disease.

At this point, some astute readers may note that wildfires are, and always have been, a natural occurrence that provides undisputed value to most ecosystems. Fair point, but such natural fires are carefully monitored by forestry professionals in our modern, science-driven conservation operations. The goal for EVERY human-made fire, ESPECIALLY when inadvertently started, is to suppress the fire as quickly as possible - ideally before it even starts.

The alternative looks something like this:

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