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May 14, 2022, 12:47 p.m.

Keep the Blue Ridge Beautiful! Fire Safety & Responsible Recreation Reminders

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As visitors to the trails and forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, we all share in the responsibility to care for this beautiful, inspiring, and bio-diverse place — ensuring that people, plants, and animals can enjoy these mountains for many years to come.

If you take a hike near the Brushy Ridge area of Linville Gorge, you’ll see trees scorched by a 2019 wildfire that was caused by an abandoned campfire. In spring of 2022, two more wildfires broke out in the Blue Ridge — one near Pisgah Inn southwest of Asheville and one at Roan Mountain near the Tennessee border.

While there are many ways that we can minimize the impacts of our activities on the natural environment, practicing good fire safety may be one of the most important.

linville forest fire

Fire safety reminders for the forest

Whether you’re camping in a campground or in the backcountry — or even just looking to enjoy a backyard fire at your mountain vacation rental — always check for current burn bans or fire safety alerts before starting a fire.

Refer to the fire danger indicator on the N.C. National Forests website, or contact the N.C. Forest Service District 1 office at 828-667-5211. Ask campground hosts and check campground bulletin boards for more information. Never burn on dry, windy days.

The best place to build a fire is in a designated fire ring. Keep your fire small — a small bed of coals will provide plenty of heat for warming or cooking — and clear the area of litter, leaves, dry grass or any other burnable material.

Never leave a campfire unattended — even a light breeze can spread a fire that appears to be out! Before you leave your campsite or fire pit, drown the fire with water (not just dirt). Make sure all embers, logs, and coals are wet. Stir the fire with a stick or shovel, and add water again. Repeat until all materials are cool to the touch. Never discard cigarette butts on the ground.

In addition to wildfire safety, you can also minimize the impact of your campfire by purchasing firewood locally. Don’t move firewood, as it can carry invasive species to ecologically sensitive areas.

Learn to “leave no trace”

Good campfire practices are one of the seven principles of Leave No Trace, a framework that invites people visiting the outdoors to participate in its care and protection.

Here’s a quick look at all seven principles:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Learn about where you’re going and what to expect before you embark. Pick the right adventure for your skill level, and pack what you need to eat, drink, and wear.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Stay on the trail! Blazing your own path when hiking or camping can damage habitats and affect sensitive species. Sticking to the trail is also the safest way to navigate difficult mountain terrain.
  3. Dispose of waste properly: “Pack it in, pack it out” — which means if you bring it into the outdoors, it needs to leave with you too. Don’t discard any waste in the wilderness — this includes pet waste, food scraps, and even toilet paper. Learn how to responsibly “go” in the woods.
  4. Leave what you find: Leave areas as you found them. Heed the saying, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”
  5. Minimize campfire impacts: See above for more info!
  6. Respect wildlife: Give creatures the space they need and only observe quietly and from a distance. This is bear country — store food (and even toothpaste) in secured bear boxes or in your locked vehicle. And never feed the wildlife!
  7. Be considerate of others: Be aware of how your activities affect others in the outdoors. Keep noise to a low level and be considerate when passing others on the trail. If you bring your dog, obey all leash regulations — yes, even if they are friendly!

With everyone’s cooperation, we can keep the Blue Ridge beautiful for all visitors — for generations to come! Learn more on the Leave No Trace website.

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