Forests are amazing places covering almost a third of the Earth's land, including over 700 million acres in the United States (that’s about 529 million football fields!). Forests are home to a huge variety of plants and animals, providing them with food, water and shelter. Our forests are very valuable. Not only are they places of beauty and outdoor fun, we also rely on trees for fuel, food, raw materials and medicine. Even more importantly, trees and plants in the forest make sure that the Earth's temperature is livable and that we have enough oxygen to breathe.
Wildfires are unplanned and unwanted fires that are very dangerous to people who use the forests and outdoor areas or live in nearby homes and communities. Wildfires can also cause a lot of damage to some plants and animals and their homes.
In some cases fire is good for a forest, but unplanned fires that burn too hot can make it hard for the forest to recover. Can a forest ever recover from wildfire? The answer is yes, but unfortunately, it can take a very long time. An average forest is about 70–100 years old, and the trees in some forests can be 4,000–5,000 years old!
To help protect these amazing places, remember Smokey’s Five Rules of Wildfire Prevention:
- Only you can prevent wildfires
- Always be careful with fire
- Never play with matches or lighters
- Always watch your campfire
- Make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving it
To learn more about our nation's forests and other outdoor areas, check out DiscoverTheForest.org. You'll find games and activities to enjoy indoors and out. And, best of all, you can use a search tool to find the forest closest to you.