Current situation

Fires in the Garner Complex in Josephine County have burned close to a 1,000 acres since Sunday. ODF Incident Management Team 2 has taken command of the Complex to allow the Southwest Oregon District to focus on dozens of other lightning-sparked wildfires. While temperatures in many parts of Oregon won't be quite as hot today, conditions are drier than normal for this time of year. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 99% of Oregonians live in areas that are abnormally dry or in moderate drought, with southeast Oregon already in severe drought.

Many ODF districts and forest protective associations have raised their fire danger level and tightened restrictions on activities linked to fire starts. Check ODF's fire restrictions and closures web page for the latest details at

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rooster Rock Fire - Announcement: Tending Your Campfire: Revisiting Smokey's Message

The following announcement/news release is from the Central Oregon Incident Management Team on the Rooster Rock Fire, August 8, 2010:


Tending Your Campfire: Revisiting Smokey's Message

Incident: Rooster Rock Wildfire
Released: August 8, 2010; 5 p.m.
Abandoned and unattended campfires have become the predominant cause of recent fire starts in Central Oregon. Regional fire researchers (1) estimate that 2/3 of current statistical fires are human caused, compared to 1/3 of fires caused by lightening.

Nationally, over fifty percent of all large fires are human caused (2) Besides campfires, other types of human caused fires requiring fire personnel intervention include: fires caused by smokers, debris burning, equipment use, and arson. The percentage of children (minor) caused fires is extremely low. Adults predominantly cause fires.

Fire is an element that has provided comfort and utility for humankind since prehistoric eras. In modern times, we no longer need to ward off saber-toothed tigers, but still retain an innate attraction to fire. Whether socializing around a campfire, dutch oven cooking, or enjoying the comfort of a warming fire at hunting camp, fire retains its mythological status. With the increased recreation in public lands and camping, the popularity of campfires creates a need to moderate our use of fire in both dispersed and developed campsites. Small fires are best for cooking, warming, and are easier to control. They create less impact. While bonfires are exciting, they pose more danger than warranted. Until they are cold out they are a source of ignition for nearby surface vegetation and surrounding tree limbs as they throw off firebrands and the flame lengths may be high. Additionally, attempting to douse a bonfire composed of large logs, will require enormous effort and water.

A fire is never safe to leave unattended. It's really that simple. A shift in wind direction or speed can easily tease up flame in embers and send even small fire brands to nearby vegetation. This could take five minutes, it could take five hours. Is it worth the risk In June, 2010, the Schultz Fire, north of Flagstaff, AZ, was started by an abandoned campfire, eventually burning 15,075 acres, much of which was prime ponderosa and aspen forest, as well as a critical watershed. The cost of the Schultz Fire was estimated at $8,613,389 (4). The eight million doesn't include the damages for the floods that occurred post-fire when monsoon rains ran off the hydrophobic soils caused by the Schultz Fire. How do you quantify that Public awareness of the necessity to leave all campfires cold is critical with the increased use of our public lands.

Fortunately every camper has the one tool needed to check the heat of a campfire: hands. If a fire is too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave; simple enough. Burying a campfire is not effective, the heat can stay dormant in unburned bark and roots, 'skunking' until it can break into flame. The potential for this to happen is high, especially in high desert areas like Central Oregon, where the climate is drier than the western side of the Cascades.

The safest method of putting a fire out 'cold' is to pour water over the pit and mix the embers with a shovel, making a kind of campfire soup. This may take a surprising amount of water and should be planned when preparing for a trip. The general rule is the larger the circumference of the wood, the more water it will take to remove the heat. The simplest solution is to only burn small fuels that will be consumed down to ash before leaving. This will lessen the water needed to leave a campfire cold and increase the confidence of returning home with no future regrets.

Conclusive agreement by frontline land management personnel indicates 'whether you're gone five minutes or five hours, if you're not in sight of the fire, it's abandoned'. Adults are legally responsible for suppression costs of their fires and the fires of their minor children, plus any damages incurred by negligence. Given the potential property loss, and endangerment of life posed by forest fires, the Federal Code of Regulations (CFR) Title 36. 261.5 is specific and prohibits: "(a) Carelessly or negligently throwing or placing any ignited substance or other substance that may cause a fire. (b) Firing any tracer bullet of incendiary ammunition. (c) Causing timber, trees, slash, brush or grass to burn except as authorized by permit. (d) Leaving a fire without completely extinguishing it. (e) Allowing a fire to escape from control. (f) Building, attending, maintaining, or using a campfire without removing all flammable material from around the campfire adequate to prevent its escape."

In some cases, state violations may be added to a federal violation. The fine for negligent use of fire varies by district and jurisdiction, from $125 to $500, and may include imprisonment, depending on the seriousness of the incident. Beyond legal ramifications, there are some long term effects of causing a wildfire which are difficult to put a number on: injury or death to people caught in the fire or firefighting personnel suppressing that fire, long term damage to watersheds, old growth, or wild and scenic resources that will not be restored except in many generations ahead.

Given the current statistics, it is important that all recreationists be willing to mitigate the negligence of others for the common good. In the event you find an abandoned campfire, put it out if you have sufficient water. If you can't put it out yourself, lacking water or tools, call the local 911 non-emergency line and report the location and time of your observation. Write down any details that may assist in locating the owners of the abandoned fire. In Central Oregon, you can also directly notify Central Oregon Interagency Dispatch in Prineville at 541.416.6800.

Ultimately, the only way to know a fire is safe to leave is if you can place your hand on any part of the fire. If the fire is too hot to touch, it's too hot to leave.

Additional Resource
How to put out a fire:

(1) Lisa Clark, Fire Mitigation Specialist for the Central Oregon Fire Management Service, a combined USFS and BLM agency.
(2) NWCG website
(3) Code of Federal Regulations36 C.F.R. � 261.5 Fire, Title 36 - Parks, Forests, and Public Property [42 FR 2957, Jan. 14, 1977, as amended at 46 FR 33520, June 30, 1981]
(4) Schultz Fire Incident Management Team 
(5) Schultz Fire, AZ

Written by Alexis West, Rooster Rock Fire, Public Information Officer 2

Jeri Chase
Oregon Department of Forestry
PH: 503-945-7201
Fire Duty Officer Pager #: 503-370-0403

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Current wildfire info

National weather forecasters are predicting the summer of 2018 will see above average temperatures and below average rainfall. Drought has already been declared in a number of counties in eastern and southern Oregon, with northwest Oregon also unusually dry for June. These conditions set the stage for potentially large, fast-moving wildfires.

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Protection jurisdiction
The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects 16 million acres of private and public forestlands from wildfire. This includes all private forestlands in Oregon as well as state and local government-owned forests, along with 2.8 million acres of federal Bureau of Land Management lands in the western part of the state. In total there are about 30.4 million acres of forest in Oregon.

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The department fights fire aggressively, seeking to put out most fires at 10 acres or smaller. This approach minimizes damage to the timber resource and fish and wildlife habitat, and protects lives and property. It also saves money. While suppressing large fires can cost millions of dollars, economic and environmental damage from wildfires can be many times greater.


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Oregon Dept. of Forestry's public information officers in Salem, Ore., maintain this blog. During the wildfire season, we spend much of our time reporting on fires and firefighting to news media and the public.