How You Can Prevent Wildfires

Wildfires are unplanned and unwanted fires that are very dangerous to people who use forests and outdoor areas or live in nearby homes and communities. Wildfires also wreak havoc on our natural environment, harming plants and animals, and their habitat.

Unlike many natural disasters, most wildfires are caused by people – and can be prevented by people, too. The easiest and cheapest way to suppress a fire is before it starts. The Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF) maintains a multi-faceted program of fire prevention, which includes person-to-person contacts, media contacts, exhibits, fire prevention programs to schools, and presentations to civic organizations and other groups. The aim of these efforts is to keep the public “fire prevention conscious”. The programs encourage cooperation with public agencies with similar goals and inform the general public of current and potential wildfire danger.

Smokey Bear’s Rules of Fire Prevention

Smokey Bear has been a champion for wildfire prevention since 1944. Although his look has evolved over the years, his message endures: “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

To help protect our forests, remember Smokey’s Five Rules of Wildfire Prevention:

  1. Only you can prevent wildfires.
  2. Always be careful with fire.
  3. Never play with matches or lighters.
  4. Always watch your campfire.
  5. Make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving it.

Smokey’s rules don’t just apply to campfires; they are good rules to remember for any fire.

Visit Smokey Bear’s website for more wildfire prevention tips.

Learn more about Smokey Bear’s fire prevention efforts in Virginia.

Practice Safe Debris Burning

Escaped debris burning is a prime cause of wildfires in Virginia. DOF works to educate citizens about when, where, and how to safely burn debris.

Learn more about safe debris burning.

Practice Vehicle Safety

Motorists are responsible for many of the wildfires sparked along our roadways.  Nearly all of these fire starts could be prevented by following these safety rules:

  • Secure Chains – Practice safe towing. Dragging chains throw sparks. Use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains.
  • No Dragging Parts – Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained, with nothing dragging on the ground.
  • Check Tire Pressure – Maintain proper tire pressure. Driving on exposed wheel rims will throw sparks.
  • Fire Extinguisher – Carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and learn how to use it.
  • Don’t Drive your Vehicle onto Dry Grass or Brush – Hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires that you won’t even see — until it’s too late!
  • Properly Maintain Brakes – Brakes worn too thin may cause metal-to-metal contact, which can cause a spark.

Additional Resources

ImageTitleIDDescriptionContent TypeViewhf:tax:document-categoryhf:tax:Media
Brush Piles for Wildlife
Brush Piles for WildlifeP00201

Brochure educates landowners about an excellent alternative to burning brush on his or her property, including where to build a brush pile, building a brush pile, and maintenance. Printed copies available.

Viewfire-and-emergency-response forest-managementpublication
Coloring Book for Smokey's Friends
Coloring Book for Smokey’s Friends

Coloring book teaches Smokey’s 5 rules of fire prevention for children.

Firewise Communities for Virginia
Firewise Communities for VirginiaP00111

Brochure provides important steps to protecting your home and community from wildfire, including firewise landscaping, defensible space, fire-resistant roof and exterior construction, fire-resistant attachments, steps to becoming a firewise community, a disaster plan, defensible space, and emergency access. Printed copies available.

Home Wildfire Safety Checklist - Is Your Home Firewise?
Home Wildfire Safety Checklist – Is Your Home Firewise?FT0002

Forestry topic information sheet provides a checklist of items to answer about your home to assist in identifying characteristics of your home that may require changes to improve the wildfire safety of your home.

Mulch Fires
Mulch FiresP00130

Brochure provides insight into the serious threat of mulch fires and steps you can take to be aware of this fire safety hazard. Printed copies available.

Outdoor Fire Laws
Outdoor Fire LawsP00107

Brochure provides an overview, as well as detailed fire law information in the Commonwealth of Virginia, encouraging citizens to know the forest fire laws and local ordinances before burning, and safety tips for burning. Printed copies available.

Phragmites and Fire
Phragmites and FireP00109

Brochure describes just what phragmites is, why it is a serious threat, how to recognize the problem, and reducing the risk to your home and property.

Safe Debris Burning
Safe Debris BurningP00133

Brochure provides a fire safety alert to this common danger, including alternatives to burning, building a shelter for wildlife, burning responsibly, and safety tips. Printed copies available.

Services for Landowners
Services for LandownersP00112

Brochure provides information about the services available to landowners from the Virginia Department of Forestry, including forest management and forest health, timber harvesting and water quality, land conservation, tree seedling production, and resource protection. Printed copies available.

Viewfire-and-emergency-response forest-health forest-management forestland-conservation nurseries urban-and-community-forestry water-qualitypublication
Virginia Reader
Virginia ReaderP00110

Newspaper-style publication provides fire safety and prevention information for youth, including fire and water, fire behaviour, the fire triangle, history of fire, fighting wildland fires, effects of fire on water quality, effects of fire on air quality, and a crossword puzzle to test what you learn.

Virginia's 4PM Burning Law Amended for Orchard and Vineyard Growers
Virginia’s 4PM Burning Law Amended for Orchard and Vineyard Growers

Information sheet provides guidance regarding the 4PM burning law amended for orchard and vineyard growers allowing burning for freeze/frost protection.


Contact Us

For more information or questions, e-mail us or use our contact form.