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Tips to prevent fires, indoors and outdoors

With the East Canyon and Loading Pen fires actively burning in our area, it’s important that we all take responsibility for preventing fires, both inside and outside of our homes. Protect yourself from the four most common culprits of electrical fires and get four tips for how to prevent wildfires.

Prevent wild fires

While some wildfires are caused by lightning, approximately 90 percent are caused by human error. Many times, wildfires occur when campfires are left unattended, debris is burned improperly or cigarettes are carelessly discarded. A wildfire can grow rapidly out of control when the three following conditions are present: oxygen, fuel and a heat source. The fuel can be any materials that are flammable near the wildfire, and the heat source can be a variety of things, like campfires, cigarettes or even warm winds. When these three conditions are met, a violent wildfire can ensue.

By taking a few extra precautions, campers and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the sights of nature without causing a wildfire. Here are a few tips from National Geographic to help prevent wildfires

• Never leave a fire unattended, and make sure you completely extinguish the fire when you’re done. Drench the fire with water and stir the ashes until cold.

• Play it safe when using fueled lanterns, heaters and stoves. Lighting and heating devices should be cool before refueling. Keep flammable liquids and fuel away from appliances.

• Never discard cigarettes, matches and smoking materials from moving vehicles, or anywhere on park grounds. Completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them.

• When burning yard waste, follow local ordinances. Avoid burning in windy conditions, and keep a shovel, water and fire retardant nearby to keep fires in check.

• If conditions are right and you find yourself in the path of a wildfire, evacuate immediately 

Additional resources

• Visit for more information about wildfire safety and prevention.

• For fire restrictions in the San Juan National Forest

• To receive evacuation notices, sign up for “Code Red,” the Community Notification Enrollment Emergency Telephone Service of La Plata County.

• Fire restrictions for Archuleta County:

Culprits of Electric FiresProtect yourself from the four most common culprits of electrical fires

Outdated wiring and overloaded circuits are the most common causes of electrical fires. Check the following areas of your home to ensure your home’s electrical safety is up to par.

1) Electrical outlets: Faulty electrical outlets are a leading cause of home fires. As outlets age, so do the wires behind them that you can’t see. Any loose, damaged or warm-to-the-touch outlets should be repaired or replaced.

2) Electrical wiring: Outdated wiring is another common cause of electrical fires. Frequently tripped breakers, flickering lights and burning smells are clear warning signs. If your home is more than 20 years old, it may not be able to handle today’s increased power load. If you suspect your home’s wiring is outdated, leave this one to the pros and contact a qualified electrician.

3) Overloaded cords and outlets: Extension cords are not permanent solutions. If your big-screen TV, home theater system and other electronics are plugged into one extension cord, it’s time to call an electrician and install additional outlets.

4) Old appliances: Older appliances are more likely to have loose or damaged wiring, which means they’re more likely to catch fire. Check older appliances for damage and determine if it’s time to upgrade or replace. Also check to ensure you’re using appliance-grade outlets. A qualified electrician can help with installation.

For both home and forest fires, plan an emergency strategy with your family and have practice drills. Listen to local emergency notifications for the most up-to-date information and always check fire restrictions in your area.