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President Trump scraps planned talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Also on our Friday rundown: California lawmakers support and emergency hotline for foster kids; and boating is a booming business in states like Minnesota.

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Wildfire Prevention in Sharp Focus Starting This Weekend

PHOTO: Memorial Day weekend is the start of high-alert season for wildland firefighters, who expect to put in some long hours in Oregon's tinder-dry backcountry this year. Photo credit: Tom Iraci/U.S. Forest Service.
PHOTO: Memorial Day weekend is the start of high-alert season for wildland firefighters, who expect to put in some long hours in Oregon's tinder-dry backcountry this year. Photo credit: Tom Iraci/U.S. Forest Service.
May 18, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. – The wildfire season unofficially starts this week, as more people head for Oregon's scenic places for the summer's first holiday weekend.

In a state with almost 33 million acres of federal land, the agencies that manage it have some advice for hikers and campers.

While many wildfires are lightning-caused, more than 700 in Oregon last year were human-caused. So Jim Whittington, public affairs officer for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Medford District, says anything individuals can do to prevent trouble will help, which could mean camping without a campfire.

"Places that people may have thought, 'Oh, it's OK to have a fire,' may not be OK this year and probably won't be,” he points out. “Crater Lake, for instance, which typically gets six feet or more of snow, I think they peaked at about three feet. So, that gives you an impression as to what's going on in the high country – and that's the story across Oregon."

The culprits aren't just campfires or cigarettes, but tow-chains dragging on a road can throw sparks, and even the glass from a discarded bottle can magnify the sun's heat.

In short, Whittington says Oregonians can't be too careful outdoors in a year when snowpack levels are 70 to 90 percent below normal.

Bobbie Scopa, an assistant fire director who works with the Forest Service and BLM, says two of the most persistent problems are fireworks and exploding targets for sport-shooters. She reminds people that even having fireworks in a vehicle on federal land is against the law, let alone setting them off.

"It's illegal, and it's dumb, because we'll get an ignition from that, and then folks end up having to pay fire suppression costs,” she explains. “That's something that is non-negotiable for the feds. We are required to bill for suppression costs on forest fires."

Scopa says inter-agency cooperation is key to moving fire crews and equipment quickly, and federal and state agencies in the Northwest have monitored drought conditions and planned all winter for the hot, dry months ahead.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR