Current situation

Winter and spring see lots of controlled burns in Oregon to eliminate piles of woody debris left over after logging or thinning. Embers buried in the ashes of these pile burns can sometimes reignite even days after a fire appears to be out, especially if winds blow away ashy debris. The same winds can then fan smoldering embers back to life. That's why it's a good idea to keep checking old pile burns to ensure no hot spots have rekindled.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Campfires still a problem on forest lands

It’s what keeps foresters awake at night. Somewhere right now, in the almost 30.5 million acres of Oregon forestland, someone has just walked away and abandoned a campfire – even in an area where open campfires are prohibited due to wildfire danger.

“It doesn’t take much to spark a fire this time of year,” says Oregon Department of Forestry’s Fire Prevention Coordinator, Tom Fields. “We’ve been very fortunate so far considering we’ve gone an entire summer with little to no precipitation. Now is not the time to let our guard down and ruin an otherwise successful season.”

Drought conditions across much of the region this summer have sapped trees, shrubs and grasses of moisture, creating a fuel bed primed to burn. It will take more than morning dew or even a brief rain shower to reduce the wildfire hazard.

ODF operates fire patrols daily during the height of fire season, checking designated or informal camp sites to make sure fires are not left unattended. This weekend, ODF crews across northwest Oregon found three abandoned or illegal campfires in the Forest Grove District, one burning in the Astoria District and two campfires – including one that sparked a 20 foot by 20 foot spot fire – burning in the Tiilamook District.

“While we were totaling up the weekend figures,” said Don Everingham, assistant to the Area Director for ODF’s NW Oregon region, “we had reports come in of abandoned campfires that two districts detected on Monday morning and put out.”

ODF’s Southern Oregon Area patrol crews detected 5 campfires that resulted in two small fires over the weekend. The ODF Eastern Oregon Area patrols detected 11 unattended or illegal campfires throughout their region. Illegal campfires, when detected by ODF, are put out and the potential exists for persons found responsible for the campfire to be cited.

First, find out if campfires are allowed in the forest area you plan to camp. Currently, campfires remain prohibited on the 16 million acres of land under ODF protection. When campfires are allowed, they should be monitored at all times; even if a fire is sited and built properly, leaving it unattended even for a few minutes can allow a spark to ignite nearby vegetation. The parched conditions in the forest have left grass, shrubs and trees vulnerable to burn.

When you leave the campsite, put the fire completely out before leaving. To do so, drown the fire with an abundance of water, stir and separate the hot coals, and drown again until all of the heat has been removed.

Fields adds that even if campfires are allowed -- this is not a good time to have one. “We can’t afford to have a careless fire now,” he said.

For additional information and helpful tips on campfire safety, consult the Keep Oregon Green website,

Kevin Weeks – ODF Public Affairs Office

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Comments and questions

The purpose of this blog is to provide breaking news about wildfire activity on the forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry. We invite you to post questions or comments you have about current wildfires. Please keep your posts civil and free of profanity. You are also welcome to contact us by email at:

Current wildfire info

Cool, wet weather in the winter of 2016-17 ended Oregon's long drought and left a thick mountain snowpack. It didn't take long for that to melt and vegetation to dry out due to a series of heatwaves and a prolonged stretch of dry weather over the summer. As forest fuels dried, fires started and spread, many from lands adjacent to those protected by ODF, such as the Chetco Bar Fire in Curry County. That one fire accounted for 46% of the 47,537 acres of land protected by ODF which burned in 2017. Of fires originating on ODF-protected land, 95% were put out at less than 10 acres.

What we do

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.

Fire suppression policy

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.


About Me

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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.