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Please don't be stupid about fire

Most fires are human-caused; they can be human-prevented

(Corvallis) Gazette-Times

As temperatures cool a bit after almost a week in the misery zone, we may be more comfortable but the heat has endangered the state's landscape, which is parched and tinder-dry. The luscious growth of a wet spring has left plenty of dry weeds and the result is that we're in the midst of fire season.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski has declared a state of emergency due to imminent wildfire threat. Firefighters in Eastern Oregon were on the scene Tuesday at a 37,000-acre range fire east of Steens Mountain in Malheur County's Owyhee River drainage. The lightning-caused fire was about 15 miles north of Burns Junction.

In Baker County, the and Foster Gulch fires have grown and merged into the Foster Complex fire.

Although those fires were caused by lightning, two-thirds of fires are caused by humans. That might come as news to the man we spotted flicking his cigarette butt into the weeds along Highway 34 just east of town Tuesday afternoon.

That act is stupid and careless and illegal, too. It's in violation of the emergency declaration, which limits outdoor smoking to inside a vehicle. According to the governor's office, the declaration also regulates campfires and cooking fires, prohibits off-roading, most chain saw use and mowing of dry grass to early morning or evening hours, when humidity is higher. (Sprinkling a dry lawn before mowing is a good way to reduce danger and cut down on the dust.)

Exposed welding and metal grinding are prohibited. More information about fires, fire danger and fire prevention is posted at .

Nature makes the weather, but only a third of the wildfires are caused by lightning. Most are caused by backyard burning and unattended cooking fires.

The recent heat has left us living in a tinderbox. Let's take care not to fire it up.