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PORTLAND, OR – This weekend a wildfire broke out in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, burning 15 acres at Rowena in Wasco County, Oregon. The cause of the fire is under investigation. In a year rocked by a pandemic and witness to extraordinary social movements, it may be easy to forget that wildfire season is upon us. This year, as family and friends gather to celebrate, holiday weekends caution should be taken to prevent wildfires and slow the spread of the coronavirus.
It’s been less than three years since the 48,000-acre Eagle Creek fire was started by the use of illegal use of fireworks during the Labor Day holiday weekend. According to recent research, Americans start more wildfires on July 4 than any other day of the year, largely due to fireworks. And just this past Sunday,
At the same time, we are experiencing a resurgence of the coronavirus, both nationally and in Oregon and Washington, with confirmed new U.S. infections in the last week hitting new single-day highs.
In advance of the July 4 holiday weekend, Friends of the Columbia Gorge Executive Director Kevin Gorman urged the public to celebrate responsibly in the Gorge:
"We're in a time of historic uncertainty. But one thing that hasn’t changed during these difficult times, is the need for us all to do our part in protecting the Columbia Gorge from catastrophic fires. Fireworks should never be used on public lands and we ask all to tend Gorge campfires with care.
"It's also critical that we all observe trail closures in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and follow state and local coronavirus health guidelines, including physical distancing and wearing a mask when appropriate on the trails. An interactive map of currently open and available trails in the Scenic Area can be found online at ReadySetGorge.com."
General Background Information
-- According to a 2017 study: "[O]ver 84% of the government-recorded wildfires were started by people from 1992 to 2012. … Americans start twice as many wildfires on July 4th as any other summer day." Source: "Human-started wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States," PNAS February 27, 2017. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/02/21/1617394114
-- Oregon has had over 180 human-caused fires already over the course of 2020 (as of 6/26/20). Source: Oregon Dept. of Forestry https://odfwildfire.wpengine.com/
-- Information on active wildfires can be found at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center and InciWeb -- the national incident information system:
-- Principle 5 of the Leave No Trace ethic is Minimize Campfire Impacts. Tips from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/minimize-campfire-impacts/
Hiking Tips & Safety Information
-- Ready, Set, GOrge! (Gorge Hiking Tips, Maps & More)
-- Friends of the Columbia Gorge Web Hiking Guide
Social Media Suggestions
As we near the July 4 holiday and enter peak wildfire season, Friends of the Columbia Gorge encourages members of the public to share their thoughts, experiences and photos about wildfire safety to keep the conversation going on social media: #FireSafe4th | #KeepTheGorgeGreen | #PreventWildfires | #ReadySetGorge | #ColumbiaRiverGorge | #LeaveNoTrace
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Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a conservation organization with over 7,000 members dedicated to protecting, preserving, and stewarding the Columbia Gorge for future generations. Friends maintains an office in Portland, Oregon, as well as in two Gorge towns—Hood River, Oregon, and Washougal, Washington. Learn more: gorgefriends.org or follow us: @GorgeFriends