Fighting fire with common sense

As much as we hope for a safe and uneventful fire season, conditions tell us otherwise.

Early spring moisture followed by a long, hot dry spell have led state and federal officials to place restrictions on public lands earlier than usual. Beginning Friday, fires won't be allowed in forests outside developed campgrounds or picnic areas. That includes smoking cigarettes, too.

There's no need to wait until Friday, however, and no reason to think conditions are any different on private property.

A little common sense can go a long way toward protecting homes and lives.

Lightning from summer storms will cause plenty of havoc without humans contributing to the problem. It takes the slightest spark -- from a discarded smoke, an Independence Day firecracker, smoldering charcoal from a barbecue -- to quickly ignite and race through thousands of acres of wild lands.

The threat to property is enormous, and the threat to human life even greater.

The deaths of three members of an air tanker crew fighting a wildfire near Walker, Calif., a year ago this week was a tragic reminder of the risks accepted by firefighters in trying to protect communities in the West.

What can you do now?

Anyone living on the edge of the forests or sage hills should already have cleared a "defensible space" around their homes, creating areas free from dry, susceptible vegetation and debris. They should have plans for easy and fast evacuation because, as much as we don't want to think it will happen, fires will drive people from their homes this summer. We just can't know where.

Everyone can be alert to smoke and lightning strikes, because the quicker a small fire is reported the better chance it can be controlled before it spreads.

And we can all follow the basic rules -- no campfires, no smoking, no fireworks.

There will be fires this summer. All we can hope is there will be no disasters.


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