Climatic conditions, such as long-term drought, play a major role in the number and intensity of wildfires. The lack of rainfall, in conjunction with very warm temperatures, allows the wildland vegetation such as dead leaves, grass, trees, and branches to become unusually dry. The dry vegetation is very susceptible to the potential for fire, especially when daytime relative humidities are low and wind speeds are high. During the drought of 2007, over 3,000 wildfires were reported in Tennessee, burning over 44,000 acres.

It is important to be alert to the increased threat of wildfires during drought conditions, especially those whose home is in a forested area or those who plan on visiting forests. The following are some safety tips to help protect life and property from wildfires:

1. Check with local, state or federal fire authorities to obtain current fire restriction information.

2. Clear campfire sites down to bare soil, circle the fire pit with rocks, and build the campfire away from overhanging branches, dry grass, pine needles, logs, and steep slopes.

3. Never leave a campfire unattended. When putting out a campfire, douse the fire thoroughly with water, stir the ashes, and douse it again. Keep a bucket of water and shovel nearby.

4. Homes near forested areas should have trees and shrubs thinned at least 30 feet from buildings. Remove lower tree branches, especially those that may overhang the roof.

5. Rake and clear surface fuels, such as leaves, limbs, and pine needles, away from homes in wooded areas. For detailed information on protecting your home from wildfires, visit the Firewise website at www.firewise.org or www.BurnSafeTN.org.

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