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Contact: Jodi Bodner
JNF Director of Communications
212-879-9305 ext. 221

Summer Fire Prevention Safety Tips
A Public Service Message from Jewish National Fund

May 2007 -- According to the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the National Interagency Fire Center, the more than 190 million acres of federal forests and rangelands in the United States, an area twice the size of California, face high risk of catastrophic fire this summer.

Years of natural fuels build-up, coupled with drought conditions, insect infestation and disease make forests and rangelands in many areas throughout the country vulnerable to intense and environmentally destructive fires.

Jewish National Fund (JNF) has gained an international reputation for its work with trees and forests during the past century. JNF foresters, who come to the U.S. each summer to take courses from the USFS, are responsible for fire prevention and safety in Israel's forests. In 1987, when Israel was faced with forest fires in the Jerusalem Forest, JNF reached out to the USFS for help.

JNF and the USFS have worked together on mitigating the effects of insects, fire and soil erosion; applied agro-forestry and resource management techniques; and collaborated on outreach and education programs, both in the U.S. and in Israel. More than 400 foresters have been trained, either in the United States or in Israel, through the partnership. The U.S. Forest Service also helped JNF develop a fire danger rating system to protect its forests from fires. Today, JNF operates its own fire department, and has fire watchtowers in the forests to locate fires and react quickly so that fire does not destroy its forests.

JNF foresters advise residents to follow these fire prevention safety tips to keep themselves and their homes safe and avoid the risk of wildfires in woodlands, fields and parks. Be aware that periods of unusually low precipitation increase the likelihood of severe wildfires. If your region is experiencing a dry season, especially with high winds, exercise extra caution when in contact with any flammable materials.

General Fire Prevention Tips

  • Install a smoke detector on each level of your home, especially near bedrooms. Test them monthly and change the batteries at least once a year.
  • Consider installing automatic fire sprinklers.
  • Know at least two ways out of your ground level floor, preferably at opposite ends of the building, and out of each room on all levels.
  • Parking in tall grass or shrubs can start fires because the hot catalytic converter comes into contact with dry plant materials. Don't park where vegetation is touching the underside of your vehicle. Motorcycles and ATVs should have spark arresters.
  • All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) produce an enormous amount of heat and can ignite brush from their exhaust systems. Don't park your car, truck, or recreational vehicle on dry grass or brush even for a minute. The exhaust system on a vehicle can reach a temperature of more than 1,000 degrees. It only takes 500 degrees to start a wildfire in the fire season.
  • Remove ladder fuels, young trees and shrubs planted close to larger trees that could carry a ground fire into the tops of large trees.
  • Cut all branches below six feet from the ground to prevent fires from spreading into the tree tops.
  • Remove all tree limbs within 10 feet of your chimney or stove pipe.

Protecting Property in Areas Prone to Wildfires

  • Clear and maintain a fire break around your home by clearing the fuel that a fire needs. Clear weeds, dry brush and trees within a 100-200 foot buffer zone. In case of fire, this will allow the heat to dissipate before it reaches the building as well as eliminate fuel for the fire. This space can also provide a safe area for firefighters and their equipment, should they be needed.
  • Consider maintaining a large non-potable water storage tank that could be used in an emergency, but check local regulations to make sure that this is legal in your area.
  • Dead and dry grasses should be cleaned up, dead branches should be trimmed off trees and landscaping plants should receive adequate water.
  • Piles of firewood and other debris should be moved away from the vicinity of the house.
  • Trees should be pruned and spaced widely apart.
  • Establish fuel breaks along roadways and between buildings and fields or woodlands.
  • Extinguish smoking materials properly. Put out cigarettes, cigars and pipes only in areas cleared of vegetation or debris.
  • Stone walls can act as heat shields to deflect flames.
  • Swimming pools and patios can be safety zones.
  • Use tile, stucco, metal siding, brick, concrete block, rock, or other fire-resistant materials on roofs.
  • Use only thick, tempered safety glass in large windows and sliding glass doors.
  • Install electrical lines underground, if possible.
  • Clean roofs and gutters regularly.
  • Keep handy household items that can be used as fire tools such as rakes, axes, chain saws, buckets, and shovels.
  • Have several garden hoses long enough to reach any area of the home and surrounding vegetation.
  • Mow grasses to a height of less than 6 inches within 50 feet of the home.
  • Wood shake shingle roofs are highly flammable. Convert roof to Class A fire resistant materials such as fiberglass, asphalt, metal and tile.
  • Construct decks and siding with non-combustible materials.
  • Screen openings under decks, attics, and foundation vents.
  • Check with local nurseries to learn about fire resistant landscaping.
  • Allow thirty feet between tops of trees to reduce the risk of crown fire.
  • Store firewood and other combustible materials like picnic tables at least 30 feet away from your house and other structures and clear a space of at least ten feet around them.
  • Post your address along the road at the driveway entrance as well as on the home; numbers should be at least four inches tall and mounted on a high-contrast, non-combustible background material.
  • Make sure that if your chimney is attached to a fireplace or any other appliance that burns solid fuel it is equipped with an approved spark arrester. Not only is this safe, it’s required by law.

Working in the Outdoors: Backyard Burning, Landscaping, Woodcutting

  • Postpone outdoor burning if your area is experiencing dry conditions.
  • Check with the local fire department to determine if a ban on outdoor burning has been imposed.
  • Have hand tools, water and enough people on hand to keep the fire in check when doing outdoor burning.
  • Before starting a backyard fire, place a firebreak around the perimeter of the fire area. Fires can escape easily if a wind picks up.
  • Do not burn in windy conditions.
  • Lawn and farm equipment should have properly working spark arresters to prevent sparks from exiting through the exhaust pipes.
  • Keep mufflers and spark arresters on agricultural equipment in proper working order and watch out for rocks and metal when bush hogging or mowing.
  • Monitor hay-baling operations closely; dry hay can ignite within the baler.
  • Watch out for sparks when using welding equipment to build fences or repair equipment.
  • Burn trash in a burn barrel or other fire-safe receptacle covered with wire mesh or grid that will help contain burning debris.
  • Stay with your fire until it is out.
  • Make sure spark arrestors are in good operating condition on all-terrain vehicles, trail bikes and chain saws when used near grass or combustible vegetation. This screen fits between the exhaust port of the piston and the muffler and helps ensure that sparks generated by vehicles and equipment don't start wildfires.
  • Refrain from welding and all use of spark-creating machines when conditions that raise the risk of fire abound.
  • Follow forest restrictions and closures; chainsaws may not be allowed if the fire danger is extreme.

If a Wildfire is Burning Near Your Home

  • Stay calm. Call 911 to report a fire.
  • Cover all eave and roof vents.
  • Cover large picture windows with plywood.
  • Clean roof of combustible materials.
  • Remove and scatter fuels away from structure.
  • Clear area around above-ground fuel tank; shut off tank.
  • Close windows and doors, including garage, leaving them unlocked for firefighter access.
  • Wear protective clothing like sturdy shoes, cotton or woolen clothing, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a handkerchief to protect your face.
  • Fill bathtubs and sinks to raise the humidity within the structure.
  • Evacuate threatened livestock and pets.
  • Evacuate to a safe location.

Playing in the Outdoors: Campfires and Other Recreational Fire Hazards

  • Find out about fire conditions before you visit an area and strictly observe any restrictions that may be in effect. In many areas, all wood and charcoal fires may be prohibited, but gas or propane camp stoves are allowed. Other areas allow campfires only in established campgrounds with fire grills or pits. A few areas have banned all ignition sources, including camp stoves.
  • When camping, select your campsite carefully. Avoid fragile environments; use existing clear areas; and return any displaced leaf litter or branches after use.
  • Use fuel stoves where dry wood is scarce.
  • Use only fallen wood.
  • Before building a campfire, prepare the area by removing all leaves, twigs and other flammable materials from within ten feet of your campfire.
  • Use an established fire pit or make a ring of rocks at least ten feet from trees, shrubs, structures and debris.
  • Keep fire suppression tools such as a shovel and a bucket of water on hand in case your campfire starts to get out of control.
  • Don't leave a campfire unattended.
  • Be certain your campfire is completely extinguished before you go to bed or leave the area.
  • Pour water on the fire and douse the site thoroughly. Stir water and dirt into the coals with a shovel or stick until there are no embers and the ashes are cold to the touch.
  • Make sure the fire is "dead out" before you leave.
  • Fireworks are not allowed anywhere in national and state forests, national parks or other public lands.

Passing Through: Driving in Outdoor Areas

  • Do not discard smoking materials from vehicles; use interior ashtrays.
  • Be aware of smoking restrictions in forests, national parks, and other public lands.
  • Smoking may be restricted to inside vehicles or in paved parking areas.

Links to Helpful Sources for Information


Jewish National Fund is a non-profit organization founded in 1901 to serve as caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners-Jewish people everywhere. Over the past century, JNF has planted over 240 million trees, built over 180 reservoirs and dams, developed over 250,000 acres of land, created more than 1,000 parks, provided the infrastructure for 1,000 communities and educated students around the world about Israel and the environment. Today, JNF is putting its century of experience to work with the Blueprint Negev initiative, supporting Israel’s newest generation of pioneers in developing the Negev Desert - Israel’s last frontier. For more information on JNF or to plant trees in Israel, call 1-800-542-TREE (8733) or visit To contact your local office, please call 888-JNF-0099 or visit


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