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ODF ending C.O. fire season, but risk remains


(Update: Second escaped burn reported, southwest of Madras)

The Central Oregon District of the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) will terminate fire season as of 12:01 a.m., Friday, as cooler, wetter weather reduces – but does not erase — fire danger, as two escaped open burns northwest and southwest of Madras showed Thursday afternoon.

Here’s the ODF announcement:

Continued cool moist weather over the last few weeks has significantly reduced the fire danger within the Central Oregon District.

Fuel conditions in Central Oregon are heavily influenced by weather patterns, and while the risk is diminished erratic winds and lack of precipitation can quickly cause a rise in fire danger. Monitoring weather forecasts, following prevention tips such as having a shovel and water available when burning, and being aware of fire risk will help limit wildfires this fall.

“We live and work in an environment prone to wildfires, termination of fire season doesn’t mean the risk of wildfires is gone”, explained Rob Pentzer, acting district forester for the Central Oregon District. “It means the risk is reduced to a point where we can work with landowners, operators, and the public so they can have campfires and operate chainsaws without restrictions, but are still cautious and aware of the risks.”

Year to date, the Central Oregon District has had 74 human-caused fires, up over 20 percent, compared to the 10-year average of 61 and up from the 65 fires in 2017. These fires have burned over 8,000 acres of land. Fires started by lightning were down by 35 percent, with only 45 fires year to date, vs. the 10-year-average of 70.

The information below is specific to the various Units within the Central Oregon District.

Prineville-Sisters Unit–Residential open burning is still prohibited within Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties. Please check with your local fire departments for the most current restrictions within the area that you live. Industrial slash burning requires a burn permit from the local ODF office in Prineville or Sisters.

The Dalles Unit–The seasonal burn ban in Wasco and Hood River counties will terminate October 15. Please wait to burn until after this timeframe. Check with local fire departments to determine if a burn permit is needed before burning. Logging debris and slash burning requires a burn permit from the local ODF office in The Dalles.

John Day Unit–ODF does not require burn permits for burning yard debris. Contact your local fire department to determine if a permit is necessary prior to burning. Use caution when burning yard debris, never leave a fire unattended and monitor weather forecasts before deciding to burn. A burn permit from ODF is required before burning logging slash or debris from fuel reduction activities. Contact the John Day ODF office to obtain a permit.

If you have questions, please contact your local Oregon Department of Forestry Office. Contact information is available at .

As if to underscore the continued danger of wildfires, Jefferson County Fire District No. 1 crews responded shortly after 1 p.m. Thursday to a small fire in Willow Creek Canyon northwest of Madras, near Pelton Lake.

Fire Chief Brian Huff said the fire, outside of the fire district, occurred when an open burn got away along a two-track road that winds through the steep canyon.

About two hours later, another escaped burn pile was reported shortly after 3 p.m. in the 5600 block of Rocky Lane, southwest of Madras, and burned about an acre, Huff said.

“We would like to remind people that while we are experiencing seasonally cooler temperatures, Central Oregon has not had enough rain to significantly affect fuel moistures and the chance of a fire escaping is still great,” Huff said.

“Please check with your local/state/federal fire authorities to see if they are allowing open burning before igniting any fires, and be careful with all fires,” he added.

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