IDNR urges caution to prevent wildfires

By on April 15, 2012

SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is reminding Illinoisans and visitors to the state to take precautions to prevent wildfires, especially with the unusually warm and dry weather in the state this spring.

“Our IDNR staff and local fire agencies have already been busy this spring dealing with wildfires at state sites. We’re encouraging visitors to our state parks, state forests, other state sites and federal and local forest and park land—as well as private landowners—to be extra vigilant this spring in preventing fires because of the unseasonable weather that could contribute to even more fires in the coming weeks,” said IDNR Forest Protection Program Manager Tom Wilson.

“We encourage our Illinois residents to become our eyes and ears while enjoying the beauty of our state parks and other forest preserves during warm weather. By becoming more vigilant and educated on wildfire safety, serious incidents of fires on state sites can be prevented,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis.

Fires in March burned nearly 400 acres at Sand Ridge State Forest in Mason County and dozens of acres of park land at Lincoln Trail State Park in Clark County. Last November, nearly 1,500 acres of heavily wooded hunting ground burned in a wildfire at Pere Marquette State Park in Jersey County.

Among wildfire prevention/safety measures suggested by the IDNR Division of Forest Resources:
• Avoid outdoor burning when winds are above five (5) miles per hour and/or when the relative humidity is below 40 percent.
• Burn in protected areas only with no combustible materials within 10 feet around for small fires and 50 feet for larger fires.
• Prior to burning, check the National Weather Service’s fire weather forecast for expected conditions.
• Avoid welding and grinding in areas with dry vegetation, and make sure that machinery is in good working order (bearings greased, avoid dragging chains and parts).
• For vehicles, especially those with catalytic convertors, avoid parking in areas with tall vegetation.
• Campfires should be small, in protected areas, and burned during night time hours within fire grates or fire rings.
• Be careful to safely dispose of lit cigarettes, cigars or other smoking material.
• Have a bucket of water and shovel on hand and be sure to thoroughly drown out the fire prior to leaving the area.

Anyone spotting a wildfire should report it to the nearest fire department, law enforcement office, IDNR office or U.S. Forest Service ranger station.