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As hot weather returns, threat of human-caused fires rises


Summer is finally heating up. And while this is great news for outdoor enthusiasts, fire officials want to remind everyone that the summer heat could lead to careless wildfires.

“Preventing wildfires and wildfire safety is everyone’s responsibility,” said Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. “I encourage citizens to join their neighbors in reducing the wildfire risk to their communities.”

The Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordination Group (PNWCG), made up of federal and state fire protection and prevention agencies in Oregon and Washington, is spreading the word that fire danger is on the rise.

In many areas around the two states, activities like outdoor debris burning and campfires are either prohibited or limited in their use. Other fire prevention requirements now in place in some forests and other wildlands in the Northwest include carrying a fire extinguisher with vehicles traveling off highways and other primary roads, and not using tracer ammunition or exploding targets when using firearms.

“While fire season has been slow to start this summer, we have seen a significant jump in the percentage of human-caused fires,” said Kevin Martin, U.S. Forest Service director of Fire and Aviation for the Pacific Northwest. “This year we’ve had 19 large fires, of which 15 — roughly 80 percent — were human-caused. We all need to do our part to prevent unwanted human-caused fires.”

Anyone responsible for starting a fire, accidental or not, is potentially responsible for fire suppression costs, plus the civil liability for damages to neighboring property owners. Combined, these costs could run into the millions.

“As temperatures climb around the state, be aware of your surroundings and use extreme caution,” says Keep Oregon Green Association President Kristin Babbs. “Mowing dry grass, smoking, idling your car over dry vegetation on the side of the road, fireworks and target shooting are just a few examples of activities that can lead to destructive and costly wildfires.”

Be sure and check fire season regulations for where you live or where you may be going. Several resources are on the internet to gain more information and to learn more about fire prevention practices. Keep Oregon Green, Oregon Department of Forestry, Washington Department of Natural Resources and the offices of the state fire marshal for both Oregon and Washington are great places to start.

For more information about preventing wildfires, these online resources are recommended:

Keep Oregon Green Association:
Pacific Northwest Fire-Adapted Communities:

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