Even with all of the rain lately, the new map from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows large sections of northern and central Iowa remain in moderate to severe drought while big swaths are abnormally dry.
Maureen Brooks, wildfire prevention program manager at the USDA Forest Service, says Iowans who will be going camping soon need to take particular care if they plan to light a campfire.
“You want to be sure that you keep your fire small,” Brooks says. “Be prepared before you light the fire. Never leave them unattended because you never know when that gust of wind is going to come up and take it away, and you need to put it out completely before you leave that fire.”
Farmers and landowners who might be doing prescribed or controlled burns on their acreages need to heed any local burn bans or restrictions. Even those who are cutting grass or brush need to be especially watchful for potential fires.
“With your equipment, make sure that it’s in good working order and being mindful of sparks,” Brooks says, “and if they are cutting tall, dry grass, be prepared to extinguish it as soon as it would start.” That means carrying multiple fire extinguishers or having immediate access to water.
When the vegetation is this dry for months on end, Brooks says everyone needs to be vigilant for potential fire starters.
“If they are towing equipment, make sure those tow chains are attached properly so that they’re not dragging and making sparks,” Brooks says. “And think about where they’re parked. If we park on tall, dry grass and the undercarriages of our vehicles are hot, there’s the potential to start a fire there.”
Nationally, she says nearly nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans and could’ve been prevented. For more fire prevention tips, visit here.