Mountain Monday: And the Fires Begin

Fire season is upon us again and it’s already proving to be a scary one

By Meggan Wenbourne

Coming down I-80 through the brown cloud of doom.

Coming down I-80 through the brown cloud of doom.

This weekend was going to be a gorgeous one for adventures in the mountains with friends. The promise of working on projects, cool clear nights and fun in the sun was quickly changed up by the news reports of fires in Nevada, Placer and Merced Counties.

Ash storms quickly hit in the Shuteye Ridge area and forced people to leave as air quality took a dive. Nevada and Placer counties are being hit the hardest with fires spanning from I-80 to Highway 50. It was one of those weekends where fires just seemed to be popping up out of nowhere.

This made me think about what we might be facing in the upcoming months. Vegetation is only going to become dryer and more susceptible to sparks as the year presses on, and since climbers and backpackers are often the ones out in the middle of nowhere chasing after some uncrowded climbing and trails, I figured it would be a good idea to remember how to NOT be the ones starting an accidental fire.

Please read on for Meggan’s How To NOT Start a Vegetation Fire.

Most areas have restrictions on fires this time of year, so please do your part to figure out if the area you’re visiting is one of these areas. If, however, fire are permitted, make sure you have cleared the surrounding area so antsy sparks do not set anything around your campsite a-blaze – it happens fast. Have water on hand! This is something that seems obvious, but is often overlooked. Actually keep the water close by, not in the truck 200m away.

Put out your fire when you’re done! You built it, you need to stay with it until it’s out or put it out completely. You, as the fire starter, need to do this even if you’re super exhausted because you’ve just had an awesome day climbing 40 pitches of gnarly offwidth (haha said no one ever), even if the fire looks like it is almost out. This little baby is your responsibility now, so don’t be that person who starts a forest fire. Quick tip if you really can’t stay awake: separate the coals in their fire pit, douse them in more water than you think is necessary and stir. You’re going for a paste situation, not a fluttery pile of hot coals waiting for their escape.

I cannot count the amount of times I have come across fire pits and non-fire pits that were left unattended, some in the most remote of places. Given a little breeze most of these would’ve started right back up again and the results would’ve been truly terrible. Be smart about this. We, especially in California, cannot afford for these fires to take ahold of the state. Happy adventuring and stay safe!

This message brought to you by Meggan Wenbourne, the fire-putter-outer-writer.


Meg-IndiansMeggan Wenbourne is an avid climber, mountain biker and backpacker who works and plays in Santa Cruz, CA. She spends her time traveling to the mountains as often as possible to get lost in the pine trees and explore the granite rock of the Sierra Nevada range and has recently developed an obsession with the desert and its red rocks. When not away on an adventure, she can be found eating burritos and training at Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, riding amazing trails in the Santa Cruz Mountains or nestled away in her cozy tiny house with cookies and adventure reading.

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