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Fire season is here. Do your part to keep it mild

The trauma is still fresh from last year’s wildfires that left thousands without homes. While a repeat of the perfect storm of high winds and scorching heat is unlikely, it is not impossible. More likely is a bad fire season in the region’s forests, bathing the valley in heavy smoke just as the economy emerges from the pandemic.

We write some version of this editorial every year: Fire season has begun, and many fires are preventable because they are human-caused. So please, be careful out there.

That message is more important than ever this summer, not just because of last year’s destructive fires, but because the 2021 drought is shaping up to be the worst in half a century and the current 20-year period is the driest in a millennium.

Many wildfires are sparked by lightning, over which humans have no control. All we can do about that is hope for the best — that lightning will be less frequent and when it does come it will be accompanied by rain — and attack lightning-caused fires as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But other fires — including some of the most destructive — are caused by human carelessness, arson or accident, such as the sparking power line that ignited the 2018 Camp fire that destroyed Paradise, California, and the malfunctioning trailer tire that sparked the Carr fire near Redding the same year.

Arsonists are not going to listen to us or anyone else. But the law-abiding among us can be especially vigilant about smoke and flames that show up where they should not be.

Carelessness is another matter.

When government agencies issue restrictions on campfires, open flames and other ignition sources on public land, they are not making rules just for the fun of it. Know these restrictions and heed them.

Do not discard smoldering cigarettes from vehicles. Use your ashtray. Do not park vehicles in dry grass, where heat from catalytic converters and exhaust systems can start a fire.

Above all, do not set off fireworks anywhere, for any reason. The momentary gratification of an explosion and a shower of glittering sparks is not worth the potential destruction that can result if the sparks start a fire that gets out of control.

Endangering life and property for recreation is not patriotic. It’s foolish.