I have been visiting Oregon beaches for years and have never before seen a prohibition on all fires. Beach fires are an enjoyable part of camping. Since when did this rule come along, and who is responsible for it?

— Charles J., by email

Good news, Charles: You can still have fires on certain beaches. Just not in our neck of the woods ... er, sand, for now.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Chris Havel told us that in the heat of the summer, county and state fire agencies sometimes enact special rules to reduce the odds of wildfires, including prohibitions on certain beaches.

"For the past couple years, conditions on the south coast have been so bad that Coos and Curry fire officials have banned outdoor fires outside of designated campgrounds from around Coos Bay south to the California border," Havel told Since You Asked HQ via email. "Those special restrictions include the ocean shore."

These temporary bans can eat up a good chunk of the summer or just last a few weeks. Ultimately, it's up to Mother Nature. Sometimes conditions get so dry that fires are banned in developed campgrounds in state parks. That's less common, however.

For beaches that aren't under the ban, the normal set of rules for fires still applies: keep it small, don't burn pallets, stay downwind from driftwood piles, and so on. Keep a bucket of water and a shovel on hand, too.

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.