Oregon Wildfires (copy)

Smoke from a wildfire west of Sisters blankets the Deschutes National Forest late last week.

Fedor Zarkhin/The Oregonian, via Associated Press (File)

Well, mid-valley residents, it's been quite the summer, and we'll be sad to see some of it go: For example, we wouldn't mind seeing one of those total solar eclipses every other summer or so. And it's not every season that sees the grand opening for an attraction like the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum.

Of course, there are other parts of the summer we won't be sad to see in our rearview mirrors, such as the record-setting heat and the smoke filling the valley from wildfires in the area. But those do seem increasingly frequent events during our summers, and the truth is that both of those could linger at least a couple of weeks into fall.

With that said, we do have one final event to get through before we truly start to turn the corner from summer to fall: the Labor Day weekend. Many of you will be heading out today or Saturday to enjoy one last outdoor blast in this summer of 2017. We don't want to come across as spoilsports, but we do want you to keep some things in mind as you head out to your destination this weekend:

First, take your time and be careful on the highways this weekend. You're likely to be grouchy after you fill up, what with the price of gasoline on the rise thanks to Tropical Storm Harvey. (Of course, the price of gas was on the rise even before Harvey, but no matter.) And the traffic on the highways could be brutal, what with millions of motorists on the roads and all of them driving a few miles below the speed limit just ahead of you. 

But restrain yourself from that lead-foot temptation: It's not worth the risk. It's already been a rough summer in the mid-valley for highway wrecks and fatalities. And, in fact, the number of fatal wrecks on U.S. highways is on the rise. You don't want to be added to that grim statistic, so as you drive to your destination, here are four points to keep in mind: Be patient. Don't drink and drive. Wear your seat belt. And hands off your smartphone until you get to your destination; operating that device while you're behind the wheel can be just as dangerous as driving while under the influence. 

If your plans this weekend involve camping, you're likely to encounter hot and dry conditions when you arrive at your destination. In fact, all of the mid-valley will be sweating under an excessive heat watch issued by the National Weather Service for most of the Labor Day weekend. 

So, be careful about too much exposure to the sun and possible 100-degree temperatures during the weekend. You familiarized yourself with that drill during the earlier heat wave: Drink plenty of water. Wear sunscreen. Keep an eye on your companions for signs of weather-related illnesses.

Also, the hot and dry conditions have left the mid-valley vulnerable to wildfire. Be sure you understand the campfire regulations in place in the location where you're camping. Operate ATVs and other motorized vehicles only on established roads. Check your vehicle for dragging tow chains that can send sparks into roadside vegetation. Don't drive, idle or park on dry grass: The hot exhaust can set it smoldering in seconds. (We've already seen that happening this summer in the mid-valley.) Smoke only in an enclosed vehicle and properly dispose of cigarette butts.

Nothing will ruin that end-of-summer camping trip than having to flee a wildfire that you've ignited. And that's before you get the bill for the firefighting effort.

After all, although summer is great, the fall season in the mid-valley as terrific as well. You want to be sure you're safe and sound to enjoy it in all its glory. (mm)


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