Current situation

Fire season on ODF-protected land has ended in most of Oregon as cooler temperatures, shorter days and moister conditions settle over much of the state. Exceptions are ODF-protected lands in the southern border counties of Jackson, Josephine, Klamath and Lake.






























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.
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.
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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

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, 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. 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.