Contact: George Ponte, 541-460-3025 (cell)
Increasing wildfire danger has prompted the Oregon Department of Forestry to tighten public fire prevention restrictions in its Central Oregon District. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, June 19, these restrictions will be in force on private and non-federal public forestlands in 12 counties including Harney, Morrow, Grant, Wheeler, Gilliam, Hood River, Wasco, Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson, along with small portions of Umatilla and Lake counties.
District Forester George Ponte said very dry vegetation due to the ongoing drought and warm weather is resulting in quickly rising fire danger levels.
“We are at a point where new wildfires are growing quickly and becoming more difficult and expensive to control,” he said. “These restrictions are intended to eliminate human-caused fires as we will soon be busy enough with lightning-caused fires.”
The following activities are restricted or prohibited:
- Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads.
- Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except in designated areas. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed. Open fires are allowed if conducted in compliance with a valid Burning Permit issued pursuant to ORS 477.515.
- Chainsaw use is prohibited between the hours of 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Chainsaw use is permitted at all other hours, if the following firefighting equipment is present with each operating saw: one ax, one shovel, and one 8-ounce or larger fire extinguisher. In addition, a fire watch is required for at least one hour following the use of each saw.
- Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is prohibited between the hours of 1 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. At all other times the area is to be cleared of flammable vegetation and the following fire equipment is required: one ax, one shovel, and one 2-½ pound or larger fire extinguisher in good working order.
- Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, is prohibited, except on improved roads and except for vehicle use by a landowner and employees of the landowner on their own land while conducting activities associated with their livelihood.
- Possession of the following firefighting equipment is required while traveling in a motorized vehicle, except on federal and state highways, county roads and driveways: one shovel and one gallon of water or one 2-½ pound or larger fire extinguisher, except all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, which must be equipped with an approved spark arrestor in good working condition.
- Mowing of dried grass with power-driven equipment is prohibited between the hours of 10a.m. and 8 p.m., except for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.
- Use of fireworks is prohibited.
- Blasting is prohibited.
· Any electric fence controller in use shall be: 1) listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or certified by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services; and 2) operated in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions.
Reminder: The following activities are banned anytime during wildfire season, including during the current period of tightened public-use restrictions:
- The release of sky lanterns is prohibited.
- The discharging of exploding targets or tracer ammunition is prohibited.
“Landowners and forest operators, and the general public need to be extremely cautious,” Ponte said. “Under the right conditions a spark, campfire or carelessly tossed cigarette could result in a large, destructive and costly wildfire that puts firefighters and the public at risk. People should also know that all new fires starts are thoroughly investigated to determine the cause of the fire. If investigators determine who is responsible, that person or persons could be held liable for the firefighting costs which can be in the millions of dollars.”