Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Giggling teens with fireworks may have started the wildfire raging in Oregon, police say

...The chief suspects: a group of teenagers who giggled and recorded video Saturday afternoon while lobbing fireworks into a parched canyon.

Warm summer temperatures and nearly nonexistent rain have dried out vegetation and turned the Beaver State’s forests into tinderboxes. Officials warned that the threat of wildfire was high and urged caution as Oregonians descended on the state’s parks and forests over the holiday weekend.

One of the visitors was Liz FitzGerald, who told the Oregonian that she was hiking in the Columbia River Gorge 70 miles east of Portland when she saw a teenage boy hurl a smoke bomb into Eagle Creek Canyon.

Another boy recorded the incident with his cellphone, and some girls in the group giggled as the incendiary exploded in the trees below, sending up what FitzGerald thought was smoke from the fireworks.

“I was probably 4 feet away from him. I said, ‘Do you realize how dangerous this is?’ “ FitzGerald recounted to the newspaper. “ ‘This place is so dry.’ “

A short time later, she encountered hikers who’d also seen the teens setting off fireworks. The hikers were walking to the trailhead to notify park officials about the teens’ dangerous behavior.

FitzGerald decided to run back to the start of the trail to do the same thing, the newspaper said. By then, she could see flames and smoke. It was obvious that it was a forest fire. And it was growing....