I live in what is called the Wildland-Urban Fire Interface. Fire is always licking at my thoughts. Living on land next to a forest has its upside, but the threat of fire is not one of them. When the days get hot—and this happens earlier and earlier each year-the high desert turns into a tinderbox. Just last year, a motorist going down the road leading to our home threw a cigarette out the window and an acre of land went up in flames in less than an hour. The only reason it wasn't a full-blown wildfire was that a pilot fighting the Pole Creek fire in Sisters spotted it and called in the fire trucks. While the fire was burning, my teen son, less than a mile away, was blissfully ensconced with headphones and videogame, the fire two miles down the road.
So it will blow your mind to learn that I take walks into the forest during the summer and find fresh campsites with fire signs all the time.
The forest is accessible by truck for anyone with the suspension and fortitude to grind around, over and through the underbrush. These primitive "campers" will cruise down any deer trail that isn't bordered by rocks and churn into a secluded place for their nature experience. A typical abandoned "camp" site consists of tire ruts in a 100-foot radius, diapers, bottle nipples, toilet paper off in the bush, any number of beer cans, of course, and the scattered pieces of wrapping. But worst of all are the ashes. Not contained by anything as advanced as a circle of stones, often simply stomped out, in some cases still warm, most no more than a half mile from the road and consequently less than a mile from my home. They're fire starter kits. Just add wind.