Wildfire warning

Absent lightning, human activity becomes the main cause of wildfires, as was the case with the Sweet Creek Milepost 2 Fire, burning this week in western Lane County. The photo shows smoke from that fire rising in burning forestland near the Siuslaw River. 

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Oregon will face extremely hot weather for the next few weeks, including the coast — and  wildfire managers with the Oregon Department of Forestry are concerned. 

In a press release Sept. 1, ODF reported that the return of high temperatures, low humidity and east winds can turbocharge even the smallest fire start. A smoldering campfire or an errant spark from a vehicle can become a raging blaze in minutes. And this at a time when firefighting resources are already strained in Oregon and nationally. 

The last three weeks have been extremely challenging for wildland and structural firefighters, according to an ODF spokesperson. They have been working long hours in the heat for weeks at a time in an effort to contain the spread of the state’s current wildfires and keep communities safe. Many people across the state have had to evacuate or feared they might have to. And the threat isn’t over. 

While the threat from dry lightning in Oregon lessens after August, human activity again becomes the chief cause of fires. So, whether this September hot spell spawns new wildfires depends almost entirely on how Oregonians behave in the forest. Taking a few extra precautions while working or recreating in the forest can prevent most wildfires.  

Make a difference by following a few simple tips: 

  • Operate ATVs and other motorized vehicles only on established roads. 
  • Check your vehicle for dragging tow chains that can send sparks into roadside vegetation. 
  • Don’t park or idle on dry grass or brush – the hot exhaust system can set it smoldering in seconds. 
  • Check current fire restrictions for the area before building a campfire. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed at any time of year. Or simplify your life by bringing prepared foods instead of trying to cook over a smoky fire. 
  • Smoke only in an enclosed vehicle. Properly dispose of cigarette butts. 
  • If you see smoke, call 9-1-1. 
  • Always have fire extinguishing tools on hand 
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