Forest fires and air pollution from burning trash can have a devastating impact on wildlife, the ecosystem and the local community. In honor of National Fire Prevention Month, it’s important to educate ourselves on the simple ways we can all prevent forest fires and protect The Natural State. When it comes to fire safety, picking up litter and practicing safe burning habits are key components to making our state safer and protecting its natural landscape. Here are five helpful tips for fire safety:
Image courtesy of the National Park Service
- Properly Dispose of Old Tires
In Arkansas, it is illegal to cause or permit the open burning of tires. The ability for rubber tires to absorb heat makes extinguishing them very difficult once ignited. They are made of very combustible compounds, including carbon, oil, benzene, toluene, rubber and sulfur. Not only that, they can have a negative effect on air quality. Burning tires releases a toxic soup of pollutants that can increase the risk of heart disease and aggravated respiratory ailments, among other life-threatening health issues.
Arkansans alone dispose of more than 3 million tires each year! The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has developed a recycling program to help dispose of the tires safely. Each month, you may dispose of four tires for free at your area’s Regional Solid Waste District. Learn more here.
- Pick Up Your Butts!
Cigarette butts are a key contributor to roadside and forest fires. They are also the most commonly littered item in the U.S. and the world. In 2015, tobacco litter caused 47 percent of all U.S. brush fires. With approximately 4.3 trillion cigarette butts littered globally each year, smokers in the U.S. account for littering more than 250 billion of those cigarette butts.
It’s interesting to think that some of the largest-recorded forest fires were caused with the seemingly simple flick of a cigarette butt. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), cigarettes are quite often littered within 10 feet of a permanent ashtray or trashcan. So please, properly dispose of your cigarette butts to reduce wildfires.
- Don’t Burn Your Household Trash
Arkansas law prohibits the burning of household garbage. Household trash contains many more toxins now than it did generations ago. Our typical trash includes plastics, metal containers and other items that contain toxic chemicals that are harmful to the population and the environment. The law states that anything “manmade” is illegal to burn.
In the past, burning was the only way for many rural Arkansans to manage trash, but now nearly everyone has curbside collection or drop-off centers for garbage and recyclables. For more information, contact your city hall or county judge’s office.
- Find Alternatives for Disposing Yard Waste
Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Forestry Commission. While there isn’t a state law against on-site burning of yard waste (grass clippings, leaves, limbs) when there is not a burn ban in effect, it may be illegal in some municipalities. It is Arkansas policy that the open burning of residential yard waste should be discouraged and that alternative methods of disposal should be made available. Many municipalities and counties have collection or drop-off programs available for yard waste. You can also mulch or compost yard waste and use it to enrich your lawn.
- Keep Your Bonfires Clean
During the cooler months, everyone loves gathering around a warm bonfire with friends. While bonfires seem like innocent fun, they can also be dangerous for the environment. As long as there isn’t a burn ban in effect, contained bonfires are safe. But, if you start throwing anything but wood into the fire, you could be putting yourself and the environment at risk. Never throw tires, plastics, Styrofoam or any other man-made products into the fire, as they can pollute the air with deadly toxins.