Human-caused fires are preventable. Don’t start them

It’s only the second week of July, and wildfires are already popping up around the state, including one that has crossed the California border.

Eastern Oregon bore the brunt of fire activity last month, with three lightning-caused blazes devouring more than 135,000 acres. This month it has been Southern Oregon’s turn, starting with the Lobster Creek fire near Gold Beach and then the Klamathon fire in northern California. The difference is, those are human-caused fires.

Lightning is a fact of life, and there is no way to prevent it. But human-caused fires are eminently preventable, if people use caution and a large dose of common sense.

The Lobster Creek fire, we now learn, was caused by a group of young climate activists at the Curry County-owned Lobster Creek Youth Campground. The exact cause has still not been released, but county officials say the leaders of Next Generation Climate Justice Action Camp told them they would take responsibility for starting it and had insurance to cover the costs — which now amounts to an estimated $2 million. The fire is essentially over after burning 400 acres of private timberland; no structures were lost and no injuries reported.

The precise cause of the Klamathon fire also remained unclear Monday, but the person reporting it apparently told authorities it started from an intentional fire that got out of control. As of Monday the blaze had burned more than 35,000 acres, destroyed 81 structures and claimed the life of a Hornbrook, California, man. A firefighter was badly burned but is expected to recover.

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes, and areas just north of the state line were under a level 2 — get set — evacuation notice. Fire officials planned a community meeting at the Ashland Hills Inn Monday evening, although they said the fire posed no immediate danger to the city of Ashland.

Also Monday, a blaze along the Bear Creek Greenway in Medford sent smoke into the air, and a grass fire closed the Exit 55 freeway interchange in Grants Pass. The cause of those fires is unknown, but human activity is likely to be blamed. Last week, fireworks started a 115-acre fire that destroyed a vacant house, four outbuildings and several vehicles in White City.

It’s summer, folks. All it takes is a moment’s carelessness to put lives and property in jeopardy.

Please, please be careful outdoors. Wildfires may still happen, but there’s no point in giving them any help.

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