Let's be careful out there

The perfect storm of conditions that touched off more than 800 wildfires in California is not yet the case here in Oregon. But it's only a matter of time.

Months of drought conditions left much of California vulnerable to an unseasonable dry-lightning storm over the weekend. More than 100,000 acres had burned by Wednesday afternoon.

More danger is on the way, with the National Weather Service predicting a new weather system by Friday which could bring more lightning.

Meanwhile, Oregon has the luxury of sending fire crews and equipment south to help battle the blazes there while leaving plenty of protection at home in case of need.

But Oregonians should not be complacent. Yes, our wetter winter and spring has left the forests and the hillsides more resistant to lightning strikes. The same weather system that ravaged California resulted in several thousand strikes in Southern Oregon, but no large fires resulted because of heavier, wetter fuel.

That won't last.

The beautiful, balmy weather we've enjoyed in the Rogue Valley the past couple of weeks — blue skies, temperatures in the low- to mid-80s, cool nights — will get a lot more like Southern Oregon summer by the weekend, when the temperature is expected to hit 99.

It won't take many days of 99 degrees or higher to bake the moisture out of those fuels. And anyone who has lived here for very long knows lightning storms are not out of the question from July on.

The sweep of illegal campsites in the Ashland watershed on Tuesday was a sure sign that fire season is upon us. The primary motivation for authorities to roust folks squatting in the woods is fire danger.

Then there's the annual orgy of pyromania known as the Fourth of July just around the corner. Fireworks pose a risk at any time, but especially when the weather is hot and dry.

Summer has just begun. We have three more months of prime fire conditions ahead of us.

And just because fire danger is only moderate doesn't mean fires won't start if given the right conditions.

So please, be careful out there. Know and follow fire regulations wherever you plan to enjoy the season. Be especially careful with fireworks, and don't use them at all where they are prohibited.

The forest you save belongs to all of us.

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