Just the sound of the word spikes the heart rate and dries the mouth. And in Colorado this summer, there is a reasonable assumption that we may be hearing the word far more often than we want.
It will be a hot, dry summer to be sure -- after a second, warmer-than-usual winter, the state's snowpack level is just 68 percent of average. Moreover, many experts are predicting a worse fire season than the state experienced in 2012 and 2013 -- the worst two years on record.
As a motorist in Colorado, you have more than a moral duty to protect the state's resources -- you have a legal obligation to do so, as well.
And the Colorado State Patrol is making it clear -- zero tolerance for any behaviors that could spark wildfires. Whether the behavior is negligent or intentional, motorists will be held accountable.
Already this year, our neck of the woods has seen numerous brush fires adjacent to public roadways and near homes. Officially, the U.S. Drought Monitor has Southwest Colorado listed as a D4, or Exceptional, on a scale from 0 to 4.
In June of last year, the Lightner Creek Fire began northwest of Durango and eventually forced the evacuation of 170 residents. In all, more than 170 personnel were used to fight the fire.
CSP wants to remind motorists that wildfires can be avoided - simply by knowing the illegal and unsafe practices that many practice routinely. Among them:
• Tossing a cigarette or cigar -- or even tapping the ashes out the window of a moving vehicle is a violation of state law. You will be charged.
• You may not possess, sell or use some fireworks. Know what they are. Don't do it.
• Do not start a fire where fires are not permitted. If you do, you'll receive an automatic summons to court to see the judge.
Even those fires that appear to be well-contained, like campfires, can easily and quickly get out of control. Be mindful of fire bans -- where and when they are in place.
Low fuel moisture levels, windy conditions, high temperatures and hilly terrain can all contribute to fires getting out of control quickly.
CSP also wants to remind motorists of other laws that help protect our responders and resources:
• Always yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle.
• Do not follow emergency vehicles, especially fire trucks.
• Do not drive over a fire hose.
• Do not park in front of a fire hydrant.
These are laws ... with fines and penalties associated with them. And more than that, they are simply common sense practices.
We all face a challenging summer this year here in Colorado. Let's do our part to keep it safe, beautiful and bountiful.