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, December 14, 2017

Oregon firefighters remain engaged on the fourth largest wildfire in California history

Above: Flames from Southern California's
 Thomas Fire shoot up over shrubs left dry
by months without rain.
Photo from Inciweb by Kari Greer.
Cal Fire reported today that there has been one firefighter fatality on the Thomas Fire involving one of that agency's California staffers. ODF extends its condolences to that firefighter's family and to all our colleagues at Cal Fire. As more details are released by Cal Fire we will share that information.

ODF's agency representative at the Thomas Fire reports that all 62 firefighting personnel deployed there from ODF districts and the Coos and Douglas Forest Protective Associations are safe. The Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal is reporting that the 300 Oregon firefighters deployed through that office and other fire entities are also safe.
 
 
Our firefighters are among more than 8,000 personnel engaged on the Thomas Fire, which is burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties northwest of Los Angeles. It has grown to more than 242,000 acres, making it the fourth largest wildfire in modern California history. As in any wildfire, firefighter safety is a top priority for our task force leaders and crews.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
A red-flag warning is in effect until 10 a.m. Friday. No rain is forecast. In Santa Barbara County, the fire continues to threaten Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Summerland, Montecito and surroundings areas. Some 18,000 structures are reported at risk and big sections of the Los Padres National Forest have burned. High fuel loading, critically low fuel moistures, above-average temperatures and single-digit relative humidities are reported to be spurring growth on the fire's west, east and north sides. Despite that, firefighters have made progress on the fire. As of this morning the fire was reported as 30% contained.

While wildfires occur every year in California, 14 of the 20 largest fires by acres burned have all occurred since 2001, according to Cal Fire statistics. Eight of those mega-fires happened just in the past decade.
 
For the latest information about the Thomas Fire, visit Cal Fire's incident information page at http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents.




 




 




 





                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
 


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

First two Marion County communities earn Firewise USA status

Signs proclaiming Detroit and Idanha as new Firewise USA communities were unveiled Friday, Dec. 8 in both locations. Detroit and Idanha are the first two communities in Marion County whose efforts to reduce wildfire risk have earned them this national designation.

Detroit and Idanha join about 1,400 other communities nationwide who have taken the five necessary steps to earn Firewise USA status since the program started in 2002. About 124 Oregon communities have earned the designation. Most are in southern and central Oregon, with about half in Jackson and Deschutes counties.

The steps all communities seeking Firewise status in Oregon must take are:
  • Obtain a written wildfire risk assessment from the Oregon Department of Forestry or a local fire department.
  • Form a board or committee, and create an action plan based on the assessment.
  • Conduct a “Firewise Day” event.
  • Invest a minimum of $2 per capita in local Firewise actions for the year.
  • Create a Firewise Portal account and submit an application to your state Firewise liaison.  

  • For their Firewise Day event on May 6, both Detroit and Idanha held a free disposal day for vegetation residents removed from around their buildings. Keeping trees and shrubs at least 30 feet away from structures creates a defensible space and makes it harder for wildfire to catch a building on fire.

    The risk-reduction moves were timely as in July the Whitewater Fire started nearby in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness. That fire would eventually grow to over 14,400 acres, coming close enough to threaten both communities.

    Representatives from the Oregon Department of Forestry, U.S. Forest Service and the Idanha-Detroit Rural Fire Protection District as well as local dignitaries and volunteers will be on hand for the public unveiling of the Firewise USA signs.

    Monday, December 11, 2017

    ODF sends engines, personnel to battle Southern California fires

    SALEM, Ore. — Some 25 engines and over 60 firefighting personnel from Oregon Department of Forestry districts and forest protective associations are in Southern California helping battle the 230,500-acre Thomas Fire.
     
    The Oregon firefighters traveled from various points around the state to California on Friday and Saturday. All arrived over the weekend at the California Southern Region Prado Mobilization Center in Chino, about 35 miles east of Los Angeles.
     
    The ODF firefighters are assigned to the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara County. As of this morning, Cal Fire was reporting that close to 6,400 firefighters and more than 850 fire engines were engaged in fighting the fire, which is threatening a number of communities. The blaze, fueled by strong winds, has already burned almost 40,000 more acres than this year's largest wildfire in Oregon (the 191,125-acre Chetco Bar Fire).
     
    The five ODF task forces, each made up of five engines, were requested by California fire officials through an interstate resource-sharing system known as ROSS (Resource Ordering and Status System). They are in addition to over 300 other Oregon fire service personnel sent to fight Southern California fires by the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office and fellow entities.
     
    “California and Oregon have a longstanding relationship with mutual reciprocation when suppression resources are needed,” said Oregon State Forester Peter Daugherty. “California was there for us during our challenging fire season this year and Oregon is fortunate to have the opportunity to return the favor.”

    Safety for the deployed firefighters is a priority for ODF leaders. Experienced team leaders are with each task force, several of whom have had additional training in firefighter safety. A seasoned agency representative and an agency representative trainee are with the strike teams to lend additional support.

    Severe fire weather is expected to continue, promoting significant fire growth in Santa Barbara County, where a number of communities are under mandatory evacuation orders. Cal Fire has reported that some 18,000 structures are threatened by the fire, with more than having been destroyed. For the latest information about the Thomas Fire, visit Cal Fire incident information page.

    This is the second deployment of ODF firefighters and engines to California this year. The deployment in October of five engines and personnel from the Southwest and Klamath-Lake districts was to help with devastating wildfires in Northern California.

    During the summer, California firefighting resources were among several out-of-state resources that answered requests to assist with the many fires that were burning across Oregon.
    # # #

    Monday, October 30, 2017

    Wind rekindles slash burn fires in north Cascade foothills

    MOLALLA, Ore. -- At least nine slash burns on private land in the north Cascade foothills reignited over the Oct. 28-29 weekend as windy conditions picked up, according to Oregon Department of Forestry officials in the North Cascade District. Seven of the fires are located in Clackamas County and one each in Marion and Linn counties. Smoke from the fires can be seen east of Molalla and areas south. Lyons is the community closest to the fires. The fires range in size from two to just over 100 acres.

    Landowners have been engaging the fires since early Monday morning. Since early Monday afternoon ODF has had an aerial observer in a fixed-wing aircraft helping pinpoint and report on the fires. Currently only one fire, in Marion County near Lyons, has crossed property lines. ODF is actively engaged with the landowners fighting that fire, with fire engines and personnel. ODF personnel and engines along with a hand crew from Coffee Creek Correctional Institute are also assisting on fires in Clackamas County. On some fires, ODF staff are advising and monitoring the landowner's suppression efforts and are ready to call in support when requested or if conditions threaten spread beyond the property owner's land.
     
     

    Friday, October 27, 2017

    Prescribed burns planned for Klamath and Lake counties this fall

    LAKEVIEW, Ore. – Fire managers within the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) are utilizing the warm fall temperatures to continue with prescribed burning as weather and air conditions permit.

    Prescribed burns help decrease the threat of high-intensity, high-severity wildfires; reduce the risk of insect and disease outbreak; recycle nutrients that increase soil productivity; and improve wildlife habitat.

    The actual days of ignition for these burn projects will depend on several factors, including appropriate humidity levels, wind speed and direction, temperature, and fuel moisture. Burns only occur on days when the Oregon Smoke Management Office indicates suitable weather conditions exist for smoke dispersal.

    Area residents and visitors may notice smoke on public lands in various areas during the next few months as part of the continued commitment to protect communities and natural resources from extreme wildfires.
    FREMONT-WINEMA NATIONAL FOREST
    Bly Ranger District
    Approximately 500 acres of prescribed burning is planned for the West Spodue Project area, located 12 miles north of Beatty and just west of Spodue Mountain. An additional 300 acres are scheduled to be treated within the Long Project area, 15 miles east of the Bly, in the Coleman Rim area. Pile burning has been ongoing and will continue in various locations throughout the District. For more information, please contact Bly Ranger District Fire Management Officer Eric Knerr at 541-353-2741 or Bly Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer Leland Hunter at 541-353-2745.
    Chemult Ranger District
    Approximately 500 acres of prescribed burning is planned for the Chemult Town site Project area, located adjacent to the town of Chemult on Highway 97 and 400 acres in the Jack Unit area, located 13 miles east of Chemult, near Tea Table Mountain. 700 acres are scheduled to be treated within the Cub Unit area, 25 miles southwest of Chemult, near Lookout Butte south of Highway 138. Additional pile burning will continue throughout the winter, 40 miles east of Chemult. For more information, please contact Chemult Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer Ken Gregor at 541-365-7057 or Engine Captain Dave Varon at 559-202-7345.
    Chiloquin Ranger District
    Roughly 300 acres of prescribed burning is planned in the Ninemile Project area located about five miles east of Chiloquin, south of the Sprague River Road near Corbell Butte. An additional 75 acres will be treated on the Yoss House Project, located 15 miles northeast of Chiloquin in the Yoss Ridge area. Pile burning has been ongoing and will continue in various locations throughout the District. For additional information, please contact the Chiloquin Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer, Evan Wright at 541-783-4056 or District Fire Management Officer Mitch Wilson 514-783-4066.
    Klamath Ranger District

    Approximately 258 acres of prescribed burning is planned for the Raccoon Project Unit, located 30 miles northwest of Klamath Falls adjacent to Highway 140 in the Odessa area, near Rocky Point. Another method of reducing fuel is to burn piles of woody debris which is scheduled within the Klamath Ranger District. For more information, please contact Klamath Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer Philp Bordelon at 541-885-3413.
     
    Lakeview Ranger District
    Located six miles east of Lakeview, 750 acres of prescribed fire is planned in the Burnt Willow Project area, near Burnt Creek and 400 acres in the West Drews Project area, west of Drews Reservoir. Pile burning has been ongoing and will continue in various locations throughout the District. For additional information, please contact Lakeview Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer Coley Neider at 541-219-2126.
     
    Winter Rim Zone

    Nearly 800 acres of prescribed burning is planned in the Coyote Creek area, which is 25 miles southwest of Silver Lake and 500 acres of prescribed fire is planned for the Paisley Ranger District, located west of Forest Service Road 33 near Coffee Pot Flat, 14 miles southwest of Paisley. Pile burning has been ongoing and will continue in various locations throughout the District. For more information, please contact Silver Lake Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer Joel Johnson 541-219-0310 or Paisley Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer Sam Tacchini 541-219-2028. 
     
    LAKEVIEW DISTRICT BLM

    Lakeview Resource Area
     
    Prescribed burning of cut juniper, approximately 3,000 acres is planned within the South Warner Project area, located 16 miles east of Lakeview and five miles southwest of Adel. For additional information, please contact the Bureau of Land Management Fire Operations Supervisor Abel Harrington at 541-219-0103.

    Klamath Falls Resource Area

    A number of areas will be burning piles: Approximately 50 acres in the Gerber area is planned 12 miles southeast of Bonanza; 600 acres located four miles north of Malin; Bly Mountain, located eight miles north of Bonanza; and 40 piles located four miles northwest of Keno. For more information, contact Bureau of Land Management Fire Operations Supervisor Justin Pyle at 541-885-4177.  

    U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE

    Sheldon-Hart National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC)

    Approximately 1,500 acres of cut juniper will be treated in the Poker Jim area of NWRC Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge. Most of the planned burning on Hart Mountain is approximately eight to 10 miles east of Plush. For more information, please contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Office at 541-947- 3315 or Bureau of Land Management Fire Operations Supervisor Abel Harrington at 541-219-0103.

    Prescribed burning notices will be placed at Fremont-Winema National Forest Offices and Lakeview Interagency Office prior to ignition and posted online. Fremont-Winema National Forest, BLM Lakeview District, and NWRC employees are committed to a safe and successful prescribed burning season for both the public and employees.

    The South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership is an interagency fire management program that provides comprehensive wildland fire service to south central Oregon and northwest Nevada. The partnership strives to achieve a more efficient, effective and integrated interagency fire management program for all participating agencies on the lands administered and protected by each agency.

    Participating agencies include: Fremont-Winema National Forest, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lakeview District, Sheldon-Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Crater Lake National Park and Klamath-Lake District Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF).

    Prescribed burn updates and maps are available online at:

     South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership blog: https://scofmp.blogspot.com/

     Lakeview Interagency Fire Center site: www.scofmp.org/rx_fire.shtml

     Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5165

     Social Media: Twitter @scofmpfireinfo or Facebook http://facebook.com/scofmpfireinfo

    For more information, contact Fire Information Officer Sarah Saarloos with the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership at 541-219-0515 or ssaarloos@fs.fed.us.



     



     





     






     


     
     


     
     





     




     


     

    Friday, October 20, 2017

    2017 fire season comes to a close

    Above: Firefighters head for home after suppressing the
    Naylox Fire in central Oregon. Fire season has now ended
     on all lands protected by ODF statewide.
    The Oregon Department of Forestry has officially ended fire season on all private and public lands it protects statewide, with the last district - Southwest Oregon - lifting fire restrictions at 9 a.m. today (Friday, Oct. 20).

    ODF and its fire protective association partners suppressed over a thousand fires this year that burned an estimated 42,000 acres. By comparison, the severe fire seasons from 2013-2015 accounted for an annual average of 81,467 acres burned.

    "This was a significant year for wildfire," said ODF Fire Protection Deputy Chief Ron Graham. "Thanks to aggressive and safe firefighting, we were able to keep the great majority of fires small in scale. I'm also pleased that we had no firefighter fatalities and injuries were below the expected average.


    "Our partners within Oregon's complete and coordinated fire protection system played key roles this year, from forest landowners to rural fire districts, the Oregon National Guard, Oregon State Fire Marshal and other state and federal partners, including those from out of state," Graham added. "We are grateful for all the collaboration and support we received in what turned out to be a very busy fire season."

    The number of wildfire starts this year was close to average, but the number of acres burned was significantly higher. Just one fire accounted for nearly half the total acres burned on lands protected by ODF and its forest protective association partners. Lightning started the Chetco Bar Fire in a wilderness area in Curry County. Over the summer it became Oregon's largest fire of the year, scorching 191,125 acres, including 20,000 acres of private and public land protected by the Coos Forest Protective Association.


    Lightning was unusually rare last year but returned with a vengeance in August, keeping firefighters in southern and eastern Oregon busy well into September. ODF statistics show that the majority of wildfires continue to be caused by humans. Human-caused fires are up 9 percent over last year, underscoring the importance of prevention, Graham said.

    "Fire prevention remains our top priority," he said. "Fires caused by humans, especially debris burning and abandoned campfires that have not been extinguished properly, continue to raise concern. We need the public's help to reduce these careless and costly fires." 


    Graham reminds Oregonians that fire season does not mean the end of fire prevention. "I urge everyone to continue to practice vigilance with any potential source of fire all year long," he said. "
    When burning yard debris, do so during daylight hours under calm conditions. Scrape a fire trail down to mineral soil completely around burn piles. Keep piles small and manageable, feeding the fire periodically from larger piles. Monitor the burn carefully and keep a shovel and charged garden hose at the ready."

    Just like a campfire, never leave the burn pile unattended and put the fire completely out before leaving.
    Burn piles, especially tightly compacted piles, can hold heat and smolder for many weeks, rekindling when the temperature goes up and the wind blows. That's why they should be revisited periodically over several weeks to make sure the fire has not rekindled. Residents should contact their local fire department before conducting any burning as restrictions vary among local fire districts.

    Fire season is declared and terminated on a district-by-district basis based on fire danger conditions. Below is a list of ODF fire protection districts and their fire season start and end dates:

    - South Cascade District, June 26 to Oct. 11
    - Western Lane District, June 26 to Oct. 11
    - North Cascade District, July 5 to Oct. 11
    - West Oregon District, July 3 to Oct. 11
    - Northwest Oregon District, July 10 to Oct.11

    - Coos Forest Protective Association, June 26 to Oct. 13
    - Walker Range Fire Patrol Association, June 2 to Oct. 13
    - Douglas Forest Protective Association, June 19 to Oct. 12
     - Northeast Oregon District, June 26 to Oct. 12

    - Central Oregon District, June 7 to Oct. 16
    - Klamath-Lake District, June 5 to Oct. 19
    - Southwest Oregon District, June  4 to Oct. 20

    # # #
     

    Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    Northeast Oregon firefighters catch Hay Creek Fire at 74 acres

    Firefighters from ODF's Northeast Oregon District were able to catch at 74 acres a fire burning in grass and timber over the weekend about three miles northwest of Weston Station. 

    The Hay Creek Fire started just after 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 6. ODF responded with four engines - two from the Pendleton unit, one from the Wallowa unit and one from La Grande. The landowner also responded as did East Umatilla Rural Fire Department, Tribal Fire, Pendleton Fire, Milton-Freewater Fire, U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Transportation. Oregon State Police had to temporarily close Highway 204 because of the fire. The fire was contained later that evening. The cause is under investigation.

    ODF reciprocates for help from California this summer by sending four engines to Northern California fires

     

    In making the case for the U.S. to lend supplies to nations fighting the Nazis in Europe in 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt likened it to a good neighbor who "lends a garden hose to the neighbor so he can put out his house fire." Similarly, when states find their firefighting resources stretched thin by big wildfires, they call on other states to send whatever resources they can spare. Yesterday, ODF's Southwest and Klamath-Lake districts bordering California sent four engines and their two-person crews to help Northern California. Two of the engines came from Grants Pass, one from Klamath Falls and one from Medford. A ninth ODF employee also went from Medford as overhead.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          
    Because of more than a dozen wind-driven wildfires, California's governor has declared a fire emergency in three counties - Napa, Sonoma and Yuba. These fast-moving fires have caused fatalities, burned down homes and businesses, caused hurried evacuations and fully engaged local and state firefighting resources. The ODF teams will be put to use where the Northern California incident command deems they are needed most.   
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
    This reciprocal aid is an important way the nation's is able to ensure individual states or regions are not overwhelmed during peak fire events. For example, in 2016 after an unusually calm fire season in the Northwest, ODF sent personnel to help fight forest fires in the Southeast, where a long drought led to severe wildfires. Those fires pummeled North Carolina and northern Georgia in October and November. This year, North Carolina returned the favor, being one of about a dozen or more states that sent resources to Oregon during our busy summer wildfire season.                                                   
     
    Another state that helped this summer was California, which sent teams north into ODF's Southwest Oregon District during what District Forester Dave Larson calls "The Siege of 2017." Over eight weeks in August and September, district firefighters battled some 317 wildfires. At the peak, during a single week in August, ODF responded to 154 wildfires in Josephine and Jackson counties - an average of 22 a day. Cal-Fire, the state agency responsible for fighting wildfires on state-protected lands, sent crews that helped with initial attack.                                                                                           
     
    In addition to California resources, private landowners also stepped up. Larson cited Handcock, Murphy Timber, and Weyerhaeuser as three which supplied equipment to supplement ODF forces on initial attack. The Oregon Department of Transportation also lent equipment and other support, including water tenders, masticators and lowboys to move equipment. At the local level, the Rogue Valley Fire Chiefs Association organized three strike teams totaling 15 engines and three support vehicles, drawn from these entities:
     
    Jackson County Fire District #3
    Jackson County Fire District #4
    Jackson County Fire District #5
    Jacksonville Fire Department
    Medford Fire Rescue
    Rogue Valley International Airport Fire
    Rogue River Fire District
     
    One result of this mutual aid was the Southwest Oregon District was able to contain 97 percent of all wildfires on ODF-protected land to less than 10 acres, and total acres burned to under a thousand. Similar stories could be told from ODF's other districts. Those experiencing fewer wildfires were able to temporarily loan equipment and crews where the need was greatest. For example, over the course of this fire season the Tillamook District was able to spare equipment and about two dozen staff to help out in parts of the state experiencing high wildfire volumes. In total they spent the equivalent of 458 days fighting fires, including helping protect private lands threatened by the Whitewater Fire in the northern Cascades. Such loans keep staff productively engaged, adding to their experience and honing their skills for use back on their home district.

    Fire still a danger despite cooler weather

    Despite cooler overnight temperatures, fire can still pose a danger in Oregon.  This was demonstrated Monday evening when firefighters from the Douglas Forest Protective Association and Camas Valley Rural Fire Department responded to a grass fire about 1.5 miles northeast of Camas Valley in Douglas County.  Crews arrived on scene of the Camas Mountain Fire and attacked the blaze, which was burning through grass at a moderate rate of spread.  Firefighters stopped the Camas Mountain Fire at 3/4 of an acre and remained on scene for about an hour, mopping up hot spots and securing control lines.

    Fire officials determined that the Camas Mountain Fire was caused by hot ashes from a wood stove being dumped in dry grass.  While there are no restrictions on using wood stoves insides homes, it is important that the ashes are disposed of properly so they don’t start a wildfire.  Ash from a fireplace or wood stove can retain enough heat to ignite other combustible material for several days after a fire. 

    When cleaning ash from a fireplace or wood stove, follow these tips:

    • Treat all ashes as hot!
    • Never put hot ash into a paper or plastic bag, cardboard box or other similar container.  The only type of container suitable for ash storage is a metal or ceramic container with a tight-fitting lid.
    • Spray water on the ash prior to attaching the metal lid to the container and allow them to completely cool outside, away from your home.
    • Never store a metal ash container (with ashes in them) on a deck, in a garage, or in any location that may allow heat to transfer from the hot coals to nearby flammable items.
    • Once the ash has completely cooled, only dump them in areas free of flammable vegetation.
    • As an additional precaution, have a garden hose and shovel on site when you dump the ash so you can spray water and mix the ash to ensure they are completely out.
    # # #

    Monday, October 9, 2017

    National Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 8-14

     Ever since 1925, National Fire Prevention Week has been observed on the Sunday through Saturday of the week when Oct. 9 falls in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire. That conflagration started on Oct. 8, 1871 but did most of its damage the next day. The fire killed more than 250 people, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. A hundred thousand people were left homeless by the fire. Contrary to urban myth, the blaze was not started by Mrs. O'Leary's cow knocking over a lantern. Although the fire did start near the O'Leary barn, a news writer admitted years afterward that he had made up the story, according to Chicago historian Robert Cromie.

     

    The most devastating forest fire in American history started on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire. However, the Peshtigo Fire drew little notice because it started in a rural area of Wisconsin and newspapers focused on the damage to more populous Chicago.

     

    Contemporary accounts say the Peshtigo blaze began when several railroad workers clearing land for tracks in northeast Wisconsin unintentionally started a brush fire. Before long, the fast-moving flames were whipping through the area 'like a tornado,' some survivors said. The fire burned down a dozen towns, killed at least 1,152 people and possibly hundreds more, and scorched 1.2 million acres before it ended. The small town of Peshtigo, Wisconsin suffered the worst damage. Within an hour, the entire town had been destroyed and half its population had perished.
     
    Those who survived the Chicago and Peshtigo fires never forgot what they'd been through. The fires also changed the way that firefighters and public officials thought about fire safety. On the 40th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, the Fire Marshals Association of North America (today known as the International Fire Marshals Association), decided that the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire should be observed in a way that would keep the public informed about the importance of fire prevention.  By 1920, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the anniversary as the first National Fire Prevention Day. Two years later, the entire week during which the anniversary falls was declared Fire Prevention Week. Every president since Calvin Coolidge in 1925 has proclaimed National Fire Prevention Week.

    Although not as common as summer fire starts, Oregon has also seen destructive wildfires in October, one reason fire season usually lasts through at least mid-October. One of the worst years for October wildfires in Oregon was 1987. That year, on Oct. 9 the Shady Lane Fire started in Polk County. It burned more than 1,000 acres before over 300 fire fighters managed to contain it. The next day, the 20-acre Alder Creek Fire threatened a dozen homes east of Sandy in Clackamas County, and the Wanless Road Fire burned nearly 70 acres of brush and timber northwest of Sheridan. Later in the month, a fire south of Coos Bay burned some 225 acres. The Rockhouse Creek Fire, which started on Oct. 18, burned about 5,000 acres west of Dallas, destroying about 35% of the city's watershed.

    Friday, October 6, 2017

    Campaign to educate eclipse visitors about Oregon’s fire season paid off in fewer wildfires

    Above: Visitors coming to Oregon for the Aug. 21 eclipse were made aware
     of wildfire risks in a statewide campaign this summer. The campaign
    likely contributed to a temporary dip in human-caused wildfires during
    a two-week period around the eclipse.
    SALEM, Ore. — Fears that an influx of people coming to see the solar eclipse in Oregon on Aug. 21 might spark more wildfires didn’t come to pass. In fact, at least on the 16 million acres protected from fire by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the period just before and after the eclipse actually saw fewer human-caused wildfires than normal.

    Emergency management planners had estimated as many as a million visitors might come to Oregon for the eclipse. The timing – right at the peak of wildfire season in mid-August – could not have been worse from the viewpoint of wildfire officials. That raised fears that the best viewing locations in the path of totality – fire-prone central and eastern Oregon – would see a spike in wildfires just when resources would be stretched thinnest.

    Those concerns prompted ODF to support a vigorous wildfire prevention campaign in conjunction with:

    ·       Keep Oregon Green

    ·       Oregon Office of Emergency Management

    ·       Oregon State Parks

    ·       Travel Oregon

    ·       Oregon Department of Transportation

    ·       Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal

    ·       Oregon State Police

    ·       American Red Cross

    ·       U.S. Forest Service

    ·       Bureau of Land Management

    The campaign included 19 billboards; messaging signs along highways, Portland airport and malls; TV and radio ads; placemats in restaurants; and websites, Facebook and other media platforms.

    “We asked visitors to enjoy the eclipse but be careful not to start a wildfire,” says Keep Oregon Green President Kristin Babbs. “

    Although fewer people than the expected one million traveled to the path of totality, the hundreds of thousands who did come should have led to increased fire starts. Instead, it appears the campaign’s messaging worked. There was no increase in wildfires on ODF-protected land around the time of the eclipse. Not only that, but during the week before and the week after the eclipse, wildfire starts statewide on those lands were actually lower. There were just 62 human-caused wildfire starts during those two weeks compared to 77 starts in 2015, and much lower than the 89 starts in 2016. Human-caused wildfire starts were also lower than the 10-year average of 70.

    In the most fire-prone part of the path of totality – central Oregon – there were only three wildfire starts during the two-week influx of eclipse visitors. That was the lowest number for that period since 2008. And it was only half the 10-year average of six wildfire starts on ODF-protected land in central Oregon during those same two weeks.

    “We’re happy visitors and Oregonians heeded messages to obey fire restrictions and campfire bans, and to not pull off highways onto dry grass to view the eclipse,” says Babbs. “Every wildfire we prevented was one less destroying resources and putting smoke in the air.”

    The careful behavior around the time of the eclipse is even more impressive when viewed against the increase in human-caused wildfires during the 2017 fire season. On ODF-protected land, the number of human-caused wildfires from the start of the year through Sept. 30 was 684, well above the 10-year average of 611. So while humans in 2017 have caused about 12 percent more wildfires than the 10-year average, they caused fewer around the time of the eclipse.

    Given the heavy demand on firefighting resources this summer in Oregon and across the West, the dip in new fires around the eclipse was a relief to fire officials. They were already fully engaged before the eclipse with a dozen or more large wildfires on both sides of the Cascades. After eclipse visitors left, more fires started. Through Sept. 30, the Northwest Interagency Coordinating Center has reported a total of more than 70 large wildfires in Oregon.
                                                                                                # # #

    Thursday, October 5, 2017

    October wildfire stopped in southern Oregon at 9.5 acres

    Above: October continues to see some fire starts,
    such as the Little Applegate Fire in southern Oregon.
    It burned 9.5 acres before being put out an hour after
    it was first reported. Photo courtesy of
    ODF Southwest Oregon District.
    Proof that the 2017 fire season is still in effect came this afternoon when firefighters halted the Little Applegate Fire in southern Oregon about an hour after it was called in. First reported just after 12:30 p.m. as a one-acre  fire, within minutes, the fire began spreading and spotting upslope near two homes off the intersection of Upper Applegate and Little Applegate Roads near the Applegate River. While the two homes were initially threatened by the fire, no homes were lost or damaged by this incident; however, an outbuilding has been deemed a total loss. Firefighters stopped the blaze at 9.5 acres.  

    Crews from ODF's Southwest Oregon District, Applegate Valley Fire District, Jacksonville Fire, U.S. Forest Service Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, and the Rogue Valley 2 Strike Team assisted in the suppression of this fire. A special thanks to the U.S. Forest Service for lending their two Type 2 helicopters from the Miller Complex, a group of fires in southwest Jackson County.

    District officials thanked their crews and community partners for the continued quick and efficient response to wildfires throughout the region. For video of firefighting efforts, visit the district's Facebook page: @ODFSouthwest.

    Tuesday, October 3, 2017

    Regulated forest closure ends in ODF's Central Oregon District


    PRINEVILLE, Ore. - Over the last few weeks cooler temperatures and increased precipitation have reduced the fire danger throughout central Oregon. As a result of this reduced fire danger, the Regulated Closure on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon District ended today (Tuesday, Oct. 3). These restrictions were in place to limit human-caused fires during high fire danger when rapid fire growth may occur.

    While fire danger is reduced, the potential for fires to burn uncontrolled or ignite due to carelessness remains. Prineville Unit Forester Gordon Foster reminds us, "We need the public to maintain a high level of awareness and be vigilant in their prevention actions. The risk of fire is reduced, not eliminated."
    
    Above: It's October but fire season is still in effect 
    on lands protected by ODF's Central Oregon District,
     
    Fire season is still in effect for the Central Oregon District, with restrictions still in effect on the use of tracer ammunition and exploding targets as well as other forestry activities.

    While campfires are allowed on ODF-protected lands in central Oregon, open burning in The Dalles Unit and Prineville-Sisters Unit requires burn permits. This includes yard debris and burning forestry slash. Never leave a fire unattended, whether a campfire or debris burn. To reduce the risk of an uncontrolled fire:
    • always clear the area around the burn area
    • have tools handy
    • follow all requirements on your permit
    Other safe burning practices can be found online at www.keeporegongreen.org. Debris burning in the John Day Unit, including the Fossil Sub-Unit, is prohibited during fire season. Information for obtaining burn permits from the Central Oregon District can be found at www.ODFcentraloregon.com.

    The Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) for MH-1 and MH-4 in Hood River and Wasco counties has been reduced to Level 1. Requirements for industrial operators and a map of this area can be found at https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/ifpl.html. Fire season restrictions are still in place in COD, including requirements for hand tools, fire watch, equipment standards, and water supply. Smoking is not allowed while working or traveling in an operation area.

    ODF’s Central Oregon District includes private lands in Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Hood River, Jefferson, Wasco, Wheeler, Gilliam, Morrow, and Harney counties, as well as small parts of Umatilla and Lake counties. Landowners, local agencies, and land managers may have additional restrictions in place, always check to be certain you are in compliance. Federal land public use restrictions are available at local National Forest offices, or on their websites.

    So far in 2017 human-caused fires have accounted for 60 percent of
    fires in the Central Oregon District, an increase of 15 percent over the district’s 10-year average. Uncontrolled fires damage our natural resources including air, water, and soil. For additional information on ODF’s Central Oregon District, please visit www.ODFcentraloregon.com

    Friday, September 29, 2017

    Debris burn starts four-acre fire despite earlier rains


    Even though over four inches of rain fell earlier in the week in Columbia County, it took only two to three days of dry weather to allow a debris burn on private land there to escape into surrounding vegetation. The escaped burn scorched four acres before being brought under control by personnel from the Oregon Department of Forestry's Northwest Oregon District. The blaze highlights how even a short period of dry weather can allow fine fuels to dry, making it easier for fire to spread.  
    Debris burning remains restricted in many areas throughout the state. For the latest information on restrictions on ODF-protected lands, go to http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx  or check with your local ODF unit or forest protective association for details. 

    Above: Debris burning was the cause of this
    4-acre fire in Columbia County. Even when bans are lifted,
    care needs to be exercised.    

    Wednesday, September 27, 2017

    The regional wildfire preparedness level drops to 3

    
    Above: ODF employee Trevor Madison checks equipment
    being returned after a wildfire in southern Oregon
    to see if any need repair. Most existing Oregon wildfires
     are largely contained now and in mop up or patrol.
    With few new fires in the Pacific Northwest and existing fires largely contained and in mop up or patrol, more firefighting resources have become available regionally. That's true even with the demobilization of the Oregon National Guard and U.S. Army troops from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. This prompted fire officials at the Northwest Interagency Coordinating Center last week to lower the Pacific Northwest's preparedness level from 5, where it has been for more than a month, to 4. They lowered it further on Monday of this week to 3. The wildfire preparedness level nationally has been at 3 since Sept. 22.

    A lower preparedness level at the regional level does not mean a lowering of readiness to fight wildfires. It reflects a better match between the availability of firefighting resources and the expected demand for them.

     

    Tuesday, September 26, 2017

    Illegal debris burns are still of concern to fire officials

    Above: This recent debris pile burn in southern Oregon
    escaped and quickly torched half an acre of pasture
    before firefighters brought it under control.
    Photo by Kyle Reed.
    While recent rains and unseasonably cool temperatures took the edge off fire danger in much of Oregon last week, they weren't enough to end fire season. The next few days will see warm temperatures return, with plenty of sunshine over most of the state. A few sunny hours is all it takes to dry out dead grass and other light fuels, allowing them to burn again. 

    This was demonstrated last Friday when an illegal debris burn sparked a grass fire about four miles south of Rice Hill in Douglas County. Firefighters from Douglas Forest Protective Association and North Douglas County Fire & EMS responded to the fire near Hogan Road around 3:45 p.m. and attacked the blaze.  Fortunately, crews were able to stop the fire at half an acre of grass. While no livestock or buildings were threatened in that fire, fast-moving grass fires can cause considerable property damage. Such fires can destroy fences, parked vehicles, outbuildings, even homes. Livestock can also be trapped in pastures by flames and injured or killed.    

    So far this year there have been 114 fires caused by illegal debris burning. Of those, 17 occurred in September. Because conditions still carry some risk of wildfire, public use restrictions that include bans on backyard debris burning are still in effect in many parts of Oregon. Those found with illegal debris burns can be cited and fined. They may also be held liable for fire suppression costs if their illegal burn turns into a wildfire.
     
    To ensure your burn will be done at a safe time, always check local restrictions first. For the latest information on restrictions on ODF-protected lands, go to
    http://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx  or check with your local ODF unit or forest protective association for details.

     

     

    Monday, September 25, 2017

    After a wildfire, suppression repair helps prevent further damage to scarred landscapes

    After a wildfire is contained and the threat from flames and smoke dies away, the public may think firefighters' work is done. Actually, an important part of every wildfire is the work fire crews do to repair disturbances to the land caused by firefighting efforts. Fire managers use the term “suppression repair” to describe this work that helps the land start to heal.

    Before leaving a wildfire, crews may spread brush and rocks onto bare ground that was created during firefighting efforts, whether by dozers or hand crews. Chipping equipment is often brought in to help chip this woody material so it can be spread easily. This reduces the risk of it becoming fuel for a future wildfire, and allows it to more quickly biodegrade while protecting soil until new vegetation can grow. Where fire lines were built on slopes, channels called water bars may be constructed to divert water so soil doesn't erode. This prevents gullies from forming. Culverts are sometimes blocked by debris from fires, and these may also be cleared.

    
    Above: After a wildfire, trees that fell
    onto roadways must be cleared,
    like this tree that came down during
    the Eagle Creek Fire.
    To protect public safety, rocks and logs that rolled off burning hillsides onto roads are removed, and fire-weakened trees that could topple onto roads or popular trails may be cut down.  Crews will also remove any flagging, damaged hoses and trash left behind by firefighters as part of their efforts to restore the land to a more natural condition.

    Suppression repair can't hide the devastation left by roaring waves of flame that turn a forest into a charred moonscape. But it does ensure that the heroic efforts to stop those flames don't themselves injure the land.


    Thursday, September 21, 2017

    Oregon National Guard makes an invaluable contribution to Oregon's fire protection system

    
    Above: Oregon National Guard members received
    the same basic training in wildland firefighting
    as seasonal firefighters.
    Most of the 250 Oregon National Guard members still engaged on wildfires will be demobilized from wildfires by the end of this week. This is down from the peak of more than 700 who volunteered to help fight wildfires this summer. The troops added capacity to a wildland firefighting system stretched thin by an outbreak of wildfires up and down the Cascades from California to the Columbia Gorge. By early September, the number of Oregon National Guard troops deployed on wildfires was the largest deployed in decades, possibly the largest since 1987 when 1,250 Oregon National Guard troops served on wildfires.

    ODF served a coordinating role, arranging for troops to get the same basic training as wildland firefighters. Guard members then helped at a number of fires, including the Horse Prairie Fire on lands protected by the Douglas Forest Protective Association, the High Cascades Complex, and the state's largest wildfire this year - the Chetco Bar Fire in southwest Oregon.

    
    Above: Mopping up hot spots
    on thousands of acres was an important role
    filled by Oregon National Guard troops.
    With persistent wildfires on national forests burning hundreds of thousands of acres, Guard members work mopping up fire perimeters was invaluable. Their efforts helped ensure firelines remained secure. They also staffed control points on roads closed to non-firefighting vehicles.
    
    Another valuable contribution was that of Oregon Army National Guard helicopters, which attacked wildfires from the air. Two Chinook CH-47 helicopters from Pendleton worked first on the Whitewater Fire in the Willamette National Forest east of Detroit, and later on the Chetco Bar Fire. They dropped enough water on wildfires - more than 1.3 million gallons - to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

    
    ODF's Marganne Allen was a liaison to the more than 150 Oregon National Guard troops assigned to the 16,436-acre Horse Prairie Fire. She says she was impressed with the commitment of the guard to their peacetime mission. "They injected so much energy and enthusiasm," she says.

    At left: Some of the more than 700 Oregon National Guard members who left families and jobs to volunteer on wildfires this summer.



    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: 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, in the summer of 2017 a series of heatwaves and a prolonged stretch of dry weather created conditions that dried forest fuels, allowing fires to start and spread. The result was more than a thousand fires on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.Ninety-five percent of these 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.





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    About Me

    My photo
    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.