Mark Twain National Forest, spreading out over one million acres and 29 counties in southern and central Missouri, was devastated by ice storms in 2007 and 2008 and by tornadoes and "violent straight-line winds" in 2009, and as a result "downed woody fuel" now covers much of the forest floor.
The tens of thousands of dry trees and brush left by the storms are ten times more than in normal years, and provide a lethal amount of tinder if a forest fire were to start. As a result, forest officials are asking campers to supervise their campfires at all times, and to properly extinguish the fire when leaving their campsites.
This advice is pertinent in every forest, even when not given as a specific warning. In many western states, heavy forest litter as a result of the bark beetle infestation, drought, and heavy winter storms also leave a highly combustible fuel in late summer and fall.
Properly extinguishing a campfire, including physically feeling it with your bare hand and covering the cold coals with dirt is good insurance for a sudden wind activating an "almost out" coal. Be aware, be cautious, be responsible.
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