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.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Target shooters: Be extra careful during high wildfire danger

June 25, 2015

Mike Cafferata
Forest Grove District Forester

Recent wildfires in northwestern Oregon have prompted a plea to recreational target shooters to be extra careful in the forest. In the past two weeks, three fires ignited by shooting burned 68 acres, cost $100,000 to put out, and caused considerable damage to private and public timberlands.

For the Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Mike Cafferata, the fires bring back bad memories of last year’s 36 Pit Fire, which was reported by news media as having been caused by target shooters firing into a rock pit. The fire burned 5,500 acres and cost millions of dollars to contain.

“Our fire danger is at record levels for this time of year,” the Forest Grove District Forester said. “These are conditions we normally see in August.”

The parched forest vegetation is primed to burn from any ignition source, whether a bullet-caused spark, untended campfire, discarded cigarette, or the hot exhaust system of a vehicle idling over dry grass.

Forest managers are reaching out to all forest users, including target shooters, to reduce human-caused fires during this period of extreme fire danger. One option is more public education to raise awareness of the potential for shooting-caused fires when forest fuels are so dry.

He said another approach being considered is tightening restrictions on shooting by either shutting the activity down at 1 p.m. or prohibiting it entirely until fire danger subsides.

“We would like to find a solution that supports landowner activities and the recreating public, while also maintaining forest resources and property,” he said.

In the near term, he asked the recreational shooting public be to particularly careful heading into the extreme heat of the weekend.  

Bullets are extremely hot on impact, he said, and fragments of bullets falling on vegetation were likely the cause of the recent fires in the district. 

To reduce the risk of fire, he advised target shooters only to shoot into a backstop of mineral soil, and to have the required fire extinguisher (or shovel and water) ready at hand. After shooting, be sure to check the target area for any signs of fire.


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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.