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Friday, April 4, 2014

Campfire Safety

When growing up, my family spent a lot of time outdoors. We explored where we lived by biking, camping and hiking. Some of my earliest memories are running around in the woods and playing in the lakes.

A highlight was always having a campfire. It was a big deal to go looking for wood before it got dark so my mom or dad could make a fire. My brother and I would pile the wood we collected on the side and watch with excitement as mom or dad seemed to create the perfect mix of large and small branches and light it.

My brother and I excitedly waited for the sun to go down so we could get down to the business of  making smores and telling stories. I have so many fond memories of the four of us snuggled around the fire watching the logs burn and talking.

We knew that having fires came with the responsibility of ensuring it was always put out. Smokey the Bear was huge when we grew up in California. 'Only You can Prevent Forest Fire' signs were everywhere and Smokey came to visit us in school every year to talk about the dangers of fire.

After the fire burned down to ashes, we would watch our parents pour water or dirt on it to ensure everything was out. They would stir the ashes with a stick and double check for any hot spots or embers, and douse with water or dirt again. They never walked away until they were sure that there was no heat left.

The love of the outdoors has stayed with me. I love to hike and camp. A couple of years ago, my friends and I were hiking and we came to a fire tower, A ranger was in and invited us up.

We were able to see fire damage from a fire accidently set the year before. Looking at the damaged forest was heartbreaking. It reinforced the importance of being careful when having campfires. We spent some time in the tower and on our way down, the ranger offered us Smokey the Bear pins. We placed them proudly on our backpacks.

When I got home, my daughter asked me about the bear on my pack. I told her about Smokey and his web site and we watched videos together about fire safety.

I hope to instill in her the love of the great outdoors and the importance of being safe while enjoying it.

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