Fires have ravaged the western part of our great state, displacing thousands, while smoke continues to linger in our county and elsewhere in Oregon.

Without a doubt it has become a heart-wrenching experience for the rest of the state to view the destruction wrought across Western and Southern Oregon, but the tragedy unfolding there should be a stark reminder to the rest of us that the same type of modern disaster could occur here.

That’s because the fire danger across Eastern Oregon remains high. Though our region has, blissfully, avoided major wildfires this year — so far — now is not the time to let down our guard.

The images emerging from the fires in Western, Southern and Central Oregon underscore how fast a wildfire can ignite and how quickly those blazes can move.

A million acres are scorched in our state and there are already plenty of pundits lining up to label the blame and seek a name to our collective pain.

Climate change.

Forest mismanagement.

Misplaced government priorities.

Reasons abound. The truth is probably more in the middle — as it often is. Climate change, forest mismanagement and skewed priorities all play a role, but no single factor is the cause of the tragedy.

Truth is hard to come by now, but one factor that can’t be overlooked is the continued mismanagement of our forests that has created tinderboxes ready to explode with the slightest spark. Instead of developing a broad-based, multi-use blueprint to manage our forests, our nation’s judicial system is often where key decisions are made regarding forests.

Forest management plans developed are quickly tied up by lawsuits. And anything even remotely connected to logging is almost a guarantee of a court battle.

That’s not how we should manage our forests, but, unfortunately, that is the new normal. All of which means it is even more important for all of us to take precautions while we are in the forest or out on our desert steppes. A momentary lapse in safety could mean the creation of a giant maelstrom that consumes thousands of acres.

Voters apparently do not have a say in how to manage our forests, nor carry a voice in a courtroom where the latest lawsuit in forest management is played out, but we all can make sure that when we do recreate we ensure that we remain vigilant and careful.

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