POLK COUNTY — Sitting around a campfire is one of the special times we all enjoy, but campfires are also a major cause of wildfires. May is Wildfire Awareness Month, and Keep Oregon Green, the Oregon State Fire Marshal, and the Oregon Department of Forestry urge Oregonians to follow these basic outdoor safety tips:
Call your local forestry or fire district to learn if there are any current campfire restrictions at your recreation destination. Portable camp stoves are a safer option to campfires at any time of year.
Where campfires are allowed, avoid building the fire near your tent, structures, vehicles, shrubs or trees, and be aware of low-hanging branches overhead. A campfire is less likely to escape control if it is kept small.
A campfire left unattended for only a few minutes can grow into a costly, damaging wildfire. Never use gasoline or other accelerants (flammable or combustible liquids) to start or increase your campfire.
Have a shovel and a bucket of water nearby to extinguish any escaped embers.
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Burn only wood -- state regulations prohibit the open burning of any material that creates dense, toxic smoke or noxious odors.
Escaped campfires can be costly. State law requires the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires any time of year. A first-time citation carries a $110 fine. But by far the biggest potential cost of having your campfire spread out of control is liability for firefighting costs. You are responsible for the expenditures on fire suppression, which can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.
During Wildfire Awareness Month visit the Keep Oregon Green website, www.keeporegongreen.org for other wildfire prevention tips.