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Fire danger remains high entering fall

September 17, 2013

There are signs that fall is just around the corner -- sure, the biggest is the calendar, which notes that the first day of fall is Sunday.

The cooler temperatures, a few days with measurable precipitation -- including nearly 2 inches on Sept. 5 thanks to a thunderstorm -- and the decreasing amount of daylight are also indicators of the pending change in seasons.

But one thing hasn't changed yet -- and may not change for several more weeks: extreme fire danger still is prevalent throughout Oregon and here in Polk County.

We were fortunate when the many lightning strikes in Polk County on Sept. 5 failed to ignite a single reported fire in the tinder-dry forestlands of the region. We're sure that the heavy rainfall that accompanied the storms helped, but fire danger today remains high.

As hunters gear up for another deer season and other outdoor enthusiasts head out into the woods, we must keep in mind that conditions remain drier than normal and we're still significantly below our average annual rainfall total.

And with more people expected to take to the woods for a variety of recreational pursuits, the potential for careless human activity increases.

Hunting season is just a few days away, and given the especially dry conditions hunters need to be particularly cautious that their activities -- from simply firing a rifle to use of campfires -- don't inadvertently spark a wildfire.

The threat of fire in our forests isn't the only concern. As days cool and the first moisture falls, many of us are preparing to take care of backyard burn piles that have been accumulating since late in the spring. Don't forget that backyard burning is still banned until notification from local fire departments -- and that won't come until significant rain falls.

With our dry summer coming to a close and the transition into fall beginning, we must continue to be cautious while outdoors and partaking in any activity that could potentially spark a fire.

As many of us have heard over the years from Smokey Bear, "Only you can prevent wildfires."