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Be mindful of fire safety in the forest over the Fourth
Contact:
Rod Nichols, 503-945-7425, rnichols@odf.state.or.us
 
When nearly everywhere you look is green, it’s easy to become complacent about fire danger in the forest. But this Fourth of July there is still much that can burn, even after the wet, cool spring. Duff, that layer of conifer needles and other dead vegetation on the forest floor, dries out quickly in warm weather, particularly where it has been shielded from rain by the forest canopy.
 
In preparing to battle a forest fire, wildland firefighters often go over a list of “watch-outs” – potential safety hazards to be aware of. Reviewing this short list of recreation watch-outs before heading to the forest can help ensure a fire-safe holiday. 
 
Campfires 
When building a campfire, always clear the site down to mineral soil. Extend the cleared area out to at least five feet on all sides. This will keep the campfire from igniting the duff and causing a slow burn that could eventually grow into a wildfire.
 
Even live, green growth can burn when a campfire is placed under overhanging tree limbs. Rising heat from a campfire or cook stove may dry out the limbs to the point of ignition. A recreational fire needs to be at least 25 feet away from anything that can burn.
 
It also pays to look down: Many wildfires have occurred when recreationists built campfires atop tree roots covered by a thin layer of soil. The roots can smolder without flame or smoke for days or even months. A warm, windy day may rekindle the “sleeper fire” into flames. Never leave a campfire unattended. Have a bucket of water, or shovel and dirt nearby to extinguish the fire, and make sure it is completely out before leaving the site.
 
Fireworks
It almost goes without saying that fireworks have no place in the forest. Even the lowly sparkler burns at close to 2,000 degrees – hot enough to dry out the dampest vegetation and set it ablaze. Enjoy fireworks where they belong: on the pavement. 

Smoking
A lit cigarette discarded into dry leaves or conifer needles is sort of the incendiary version of an IED. It can smolder without noticeable smoke for a long time before igniting the surrounding fuel bed. Wherever you smoke, properly dispose of your smoking materials (ashtray, water or sand to make sure it’s out).

Off-road vehicle use 
The exhaust systems of four-wheel-drives and ATVs crank out a lot of heat. Only a few seconds of contact between dry grass and a catalytic converter or a motorcycle tailpipe can literally blaze a trail in the forest. Stay on established roads and trails, and park on gravel surfaces or developed roadside pull-outs.
 
Fire safety tips for camping and recreating in the forest are available on the Keep Oregon Green Association website, www.keeporegongreen.com, and from other wildfire prevention agencies and organizations, as well as local fire departments.