2015 another severe fire season

A cool, wet winter and heavy snowpack delayed the start of fire season in much of western and northeastern Oregon. However, the onset of hotter, drier weather is quickly drying out forests and rangeland, making it easier for fires to start. More than half of ODF-protected lands are in districts that have declared the start of fire season this month. It's especially important as summer approaches to avoid or be extra careful with any potential source of fire in wooded areas. Fire season means the end of most outdoor activities that are high risk for starting a fire, such as debris burning, campfires outside of designated areas, and using tracer ammunition and exploding targets.







Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Fire season still in effect - Recent precipitation misnomer to fire danger

Contact:              Tom Fields          
                              Oregon Department of Forestry
                              (503) 945-7440

The recent rainfall that fell across Oregon in variable amounts has fire officials concerned.

“Now is not the time for folks to let their guard down,” says Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “We’re still in the midst of three consecutive fire seasons that have wreaked havoc in all four corners of the state. And while the small amount of rain was a welcome relief, we are far from putting this fire season to bed.”

For the most part, the significant rainfall since August 24 landed along the Oregon coast and Willamette Valley. The north Cascades also received in excess of an inch of rain while the rest of the state remained fairly dry. Fuels receptive to sparks and embers remain abnormally dry and are still prone to ignite and carry fire with ease. Add to the mix the region’s early fall east winds that blow over the Cascades like California’s Santa Anna winds, and the threat doubles. The Scoggins Creek, Yellow Point and Lost Hubcap fires from 2014 are prime examples of September fires that grew out of control, threatened communities, and cost millions of dollars to put out. Broken down, the Scoggins Creek Fire burned 211 acres and cost $1.9 million; Yellow Point burned 789 acres and cost $5.6 million; and Lost Hubcap burned 2,712 acres and cost $3.1 million.

“The bottom line,” according to Fields, “is that we still need to exercise caution and follow fire restrictions in effect when working or recreating in wildland areas.”

Campfires remain prohibited on private and public lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry as well as all state parks. The exception is developed and approved campgrounds in some areas.

“Your best bet is to know before you go. Check with the local authority before heading out.” Fields says another tool is ODF’s fire restrictions interactive map on the web at http://www.oregon.gov/odf/pages/fire/precautionlevelMap.aspx

While many corporate private lands remain closed due to the continued fire danger, hunting season is still open. Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts must have landowner permission before entering and follow all public fire use restrictions, such as no smoking or off-road driving.

Outdoor debris burning also remains prohibited. Other fire-starting activities currently restricted include the use of power equipment such as chainsaws and lawn mowers cutting dry grass. Those activities can only be done early in the day when fire danger is at its lowest.

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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: information@odf.state.or.us.

Current wildfire info

Cool, wet weather in the winter of 2016-17 ended Oregon's long drought and left a thick snowpack at higher elevations which will take some time to melt. However, even in non-drought years Oregon's warm, dry summers create conditions that allow for fire to start and spread. In an average summer firefighters still see almost a thousand fires on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.



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. There are about 30.4 million total 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.




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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.