(Update: adding video and quote from fire official)
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon District will enter fire season on Monday at 12:01 a.m. The move affects private, county, state and local government lands within the district boundary.
Summer weather patterns continue to dry wildland fuels and increase the risk for fire spread, these weather patterns also bring the risk of lightning and increase fire activity in the area, officials said.
Fire season declaration is intended to reduce human fire starts by restricting some activities related to forest operations and open burning.
“When the district enters fire season, it highlights the change of wildland fuel and weather patterns,” explained Rob Pentzer, acting district forester.
“It is an indicator to our landowners, operators and the public that we are trending toward warm, dry weather, and we need to change our actions to reduce any potential starts and prevent fires when we can.”
The fire season declaration restricts the use of tracer ammunition and exploding targets within the district, as well as the use of blasting materials. Smoking while working or traveling through forest operations is also prohibited. Luminaries (sky lanterns) are always prohibited in Oregon.
Fire Weather Program Manager John Saltenberger of the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Boise told NewsChannel 21 there are a lot of influencing factors. He said when we compare current weather patterns to those back during El Nino and El Nina, we're falling right in the middle.
As a result, he said, this makes it harder to predict future weather conditions.
Saltenberger is concerned that the fire danger, combined with high ignitions and unusual weather patterns, can guarantee a dangerous fire season.
He shared some tips on how to prevent future wildfires.
"My take-away message is for folks to really be careful when they're using fire out in the brush lands and the timberlands," Saltenberger said. "In non-developed campground areas, really be careful to make sure those fires are thoroughly extinguished, according to Smokey Bear standards before they leave that campsite. Use a pail of water and shovel to make sure those fires are dead out."
All open burning within the Central Oregon District Protection Boundary requires a permit during fire season.
Landowners who burned earlier this spring should check their piles to ensure there is no heat or flames, recent warm temperatures can rekindle these burns if any fire remains.
When checking piles use a shovel to stir the ashes and feel below the surface for heat. Use water and dirt to extinguish any remaining heat. Check for local restrictions regarding open burning, as some local governments and fire departments have implemented additional burn bans.
These restrictions do not apply to campfires, however following safe burning practices will decrease the risk of fire spread. Always make sure your campfire is DEADOUT! before leaving the area and never leave a fire unattended.
In addition to the fire season declaration Industrial Fire Precaution Level 1 will be in effect for regulated use areas MH-1 and MH-4 (Wasco and Hood River counties). All forest operations should have appropriate fire equipment and perform a fire watch, details for these rules are available at www.oregon.gov/odf/Fire/Documents/2019%20Fire%20Season%20Requirements.pdf. Stewardship Foresters from local units within Central Oregon District can provide additional guidance as needed.
ODF’s Central Oregon District continues to serve landowners and the public as an essential service for Oregonians. Please call or email to talk with our staff or schedule an appointment. For additional information on ODF’s Central Oregon District, including contact information and unit offices, please visit www.ODFcentraloregon.com.