We have made a point to bring up the danger from range and forest fires before on this page and in this space, but as the temperatures climb the risk bears repeating.
That is because the specter of last summer’s forest fires — that consumed homes and inflicted millions in damages to the western part of the state — looms as our weather pattern continues hot and dry and thunderstorms become a common element.
Fire season has arrived earlier than usual, and a moment of complacency or carelessness while camping could ignite a fire that gobbles hundreds or thousands of acres.
While Mother Nature obviously plays a key role in the start of fires, the public also is an important part of prevention. Nationally, human-caused wildfires make up 87% of all wildfires each year. Almost all those fires could have been prevented.
So, the public, when out in the forests camping, does hold a great deal of responsibility regarding fire prevention.
No one wants to end a camping trip with a raging forest fire in the background, so it is important to remember the tips to keep safe. For one, make sure your vehicle or trailer is in good mechanical working condition. Sparks from a chain as it hits the pavement could cause a spark that shoots into a region of dry grass. Mufflers also should be in good working order.
Equipment is one leading cause of fires. Another is just plain carelessness. Common sense is crucial while out enjoying our state’s vast public lands. While fire restrictions are already in place throughout the region, it is important the public understand that operating a generator next to a dry patch of grass probably is not a good idea.
Area fire managers are worried, and they should be. That is because the climate is going to get hotter across our state before it begins to cool off. Many forest areas are already far too dry and are, essentially, tinderboxes.
It is easy to shrug off the danger. To adopt a sort of “it’s hot every year” philosophy would be an error. Our public lands are some of the greatest in the nation, they provide ample recreation opportunities for the residents of Eastern Oregon, and they deserve to be protected. That means all of us need to remember to use common sense and caution when we are out in the woods over the next few weeks.