Oregon Department of Forestry: Crisp mornings and cool evenings foretell the arrival of fall. But wildfire danger lingers during this seasonal transition. Forest fuels both large and small, from trees to grasses, remain dry and prone to burn at the smallest spark. Current weather and fuel models rate southwestern and central Oregon at extreme potential for wildfire, with the northeastern region of the state solidly in the high range. Under these conditions, a fire ignited by a campfire, ATV, cigarette or other human cause will likely spread fast and burn violently.
Oregonians planning a Labor Day weekend outing to the forest are encouraged to enjoy this special time with friends and family, but with fire safety in mind.
Fire safety regulations are updated regularly in response to changing weather and fuel conditions. Before heading out, contact the agency that manages the forest to get the current rules. For the State Forests, call the nearest office of the Oregon Department of Forestry. For the National Forests, contact the U.S. Forest Service.
Over the past five years, 584 campfires built on state-protected lands burned 1,615 acres and cost $2.6 million to put out. The Keep Oregon Green Association offers helpful tips on safe campfire use at: www.keeporegongreen.com. Open burning is prohibited in some locations, so that pre-outing call to the local forest management agency is a must before building a campfire.
Off-road vehicle use and smoking are perennial causes of wildfires. Forest managers can fill you in on current rules governing those activities. In some areas of the state, motorized vehicles are restricted to established roadways. Restrictions may apply to smoking as well.
The forecast of possible rain this weekend is welcome news, but it is unlikely to lower wildfire danger significantly. Large fuels such as trees are slow to absorb moisture. While grasses and other fine fuels can be dampened by a shower, they will dry out quickly in a single sunny day.
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