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can silt up, causing worse problems later.

Seacoast floods, on the other hand, are almost impossible to prevent. A ranger's best strategy for dealing with them is to become familiar with the weather patterns that precede them. With sufficient warning, a ranger can warn others to seek protection in the highlands until the storm subsides.

Violent shifting of the earth's inner layers may produce earthquakes, which can occur anywhere in the world. Earthquakes can indirectly cause flooding and fires, but the biggest danger comes from avalanches, falling rocks, trees, mudslides, and collapsing buildings.

As with seacoast floods, there's not much a ranger can do to prevent earthquakes, but he can learn to recognize the signs that precede them. Unusual animal behavior (such as the agitated prancing of small mammals), spontaneous geyser eruptions, and clusters of small tremors often indicate an impending major earthquake. While the warnings may not come long in advance, a forewarned ranger can spread the word to head for plains or open fields, which may be safer havens in the event of a major earthquake.

Higher than average temperatures and a lack of rainfall may result in a drought. When water is scarce, rivers dry up, vegetation withers, and animals suffer from dehydration.

Rangers can't accurately predict when droughts will occur. However, in regions of irregular rainfall, he can check tree rings, which give an excellent indicator of rain received in previous seasons. Thick rings occur in wet years, thin rings in dry years. Since wet periods tend to alternate with dry periods, studying the rings can help the ranger anticipate the next drought. A ranger can't offset the overall effects of a drought, but he can reduce the local impact of the drought on marginal habitats by storing water, and encouraging others to do the same.

Fires are perhaps the most devastating of all natural disasters. A fire not only wipes out trees and vegetation, it also kills animals and pollutes lakes and rivers with ash. Travelers who carelessly burn trash or toss unwanted torches into the brush are a common source of fires. While lightning strikes are a primary cause of forest fires, some fires are intentionally set by enemies.

Rangers occupying forests or other territories susceptible to fire constantly watch for smoke. Tall mountains make the best vantage point, but where mountains are unavailable or where scaling them frequently is impractical, rangers may construct lookout towers-- simple platforms supported by long poles and nearby trees. A rope or wood ladder gives the ranger access to the tower.

Fighting fires isn't easy, nor is it something one ranger can effectively do alone. Because fires spread so rapidly, particularly in dry seasons, a ranger's chance of stopping a fire decreases with every moment it's allowed to burn. Water or dirt can be used to smother small fires. If a ranger has prepared for help beforehand, he can coordinate the building of a ireline--an area cleared of all vegetation and other combustible material. This helps contain larger fires, but an adequate fireline usually requires the efforts of many individuals working as a team. Once a fire is extinguished, a close watch must still be kept for many days, lest a smoldering limb start the ire blazing once again.

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