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Sep-21-2009 22:31printcomments

Fire Still Threatens Oregon's Forests

Always carry a fire extinguisher or water, and a shovel.

Oregon wildfire
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(SALEM, Ore.) - There's no better time of year than right now to enjoy northwestern Oregon's forests. But the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) reminds residents planning hunting or camping outings to be extra aware of fire danger as they head into the forest. "Even though the weather has begun to cool, forest vegetation - from grasses, to shrubs, to trees – remains dry and susceptible to wildfire," said ODF forester Ashley Lertora. Add the easterly winds characteristic of early fall in this region of the state, and a small blaze started by a campfire or a hunter's warming fire can spread rapidly into a damaging wildfire. The wide fluctuation in temperature and humidity throughout the day can mask the danger. Hunters often build a small warming fire as they hunker on the hillside in early morning to watch for game. If left smoldering, this modest source of heat to ward off the chill may flare up and run when the midday sun warms the air and dries the surrounding grass. Improperly tended campfires also pose a threat this time of year. A campfire should be tended at all times. When leaving the site, drown the fire with water, stir the ashes and repeat until it is completely out. Even when there is no smoke, a campfire that appears to be extinguished can harbor heat for weeks, and then rekindle with the drying effect of sun and wind. Cured-out grasses are particularly susceptible to ignition from motorized vehicles. Before making that fall outing, inspect the exhaust systems of ATVs and full-sized vehicles to ensure they are undamaged and functioning properly. Check the current fire safety rules to learn if off-road travel is allowed. If not, stay on established roadways and avoid parking on the roadside, where grass may ignite from contact with a hot exhaust system. Always carry a fire extinguisher or water, and a shovel. Information about local conditions and current fire restrictions is available from Oregon Department of Forestry offices. Locations and phone numbers are listed at:

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.