Near the Smoky Mountains, 3,700 acres of land are engulfed in a wildfire that is at 30% containment as of Thursday afternoon. 11,000 homes have been evacuated. As of now, the cause of the fire is unknown, but 85% of the time, wildfires are caused by humans.
Thankfully, fire personnel from all over the state poured into the area to assist in getting the flames under control. There is no telling how long it will be until the fire is put out, let alone contained.
This spring break, I took a trip to the area that is now under siege by the flames. With a group of fellow OU bobcats, we got a cabin in the Smoky Mountains and took the time to relax, unplug and connect with nature. As Ohio natives, we’re used to a flatter terrain, so being in the mountains was refreshing and immensely beautiful.
It’s hard to imagine so much land filled with wildlife lending itself to the destruction of a wildfire. This is a tragic fire, but so far, it at least has not engulfed any of the Smoky Mountains National Park.
As American citizens who have been blessed with so much American land that deserves protecting, it is important in events like this to remember that we must always do our part when exploring the great outdoors to keep these lands safe so that future generations can enjoy their beauty the way we are able to. Being aware of the principles of Leave No Trace to minimize our impacts on land to be preventative and keep tragedies of wildfires from happening is the least we can do.
National Parks enthusiasts and casual nature enjoyers alike should always try to leave the land better than they found it. Always make sure to pack in any trash you take; it may be inconvenient to carry it around with you, but debris, including trash, contributes to wildfires that can be preventable.
If you are ever in a situation where you build a fire, keep it as small and contained as possible, and always burn all wood and coals to ash. Put out campfires completely, and then scatter the cool ashes to make sure your fire isn’t going to cause any harm. Cigarette ash and butts are not only harmful to wildlife, but they also can easily start wildfires and in many cases have.
Our biggest takeaway from tragic wildfires should be to never take nature and wildlife for granted. What is an amazing forest one day can be destroyed in mere hours. We must do our part to protect the land around us so that the enjoyment and connection we are able to get from the land will be enjoyed for the generations that stand on our shoulders.
Mikayla Rochelle is a graduate student studying public administration at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Mikayla by tweeting her at @mikayla_roch.