Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fire Danger Climbs, Restrictions Increase

The likelihood of a large wildfire occurring has increased over the past several days with the recent hot and dry weather.  The indices that fire managers use to measure seasonal fire severity are indicating extreme fire conditions across northeastern Oregon.  As a result, fire managers for Oregon Department of Forestry’s Northeast Oregon District are increasing the wildfire prevention measures in their Regulated Use Closure. 

Effective at 12:01 a.m. August 19, 2016 the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) added additional restrictions to the Regulated Use Closure for lands within the Northeast Oregon District.  The Regulated Use Closure affects private, state, county, municipal, and tribal lands in seven counties:  Union, Baker, Wallowa, Umatilla and small portions of Malheur, Grant and Morrow Counties.  The Regulated Use Closure is intended to prevent or minimize human-caused wildfires and to protect natural resources and public health and safety.

“These restrictions are put in place to help minimize private landowners’ exposure to human caused fires.  While landowners and the public must abide by these prevention measures, landowners can impose more stringent restrictions on their own land.  It’s best to check with the landowner or manager of the land before you head out to enjoy the forest.”  said Joe Hessel, La Grande Unit Forester.  So far this year, ODF’s Northeast Oregon District has had 20 human-caused fires that have burned 698 acres.  Additionally there have been 10 lightning-caused fires that have burned 123 acres. 

The Regulated Use Closure includes the following fire prevention measures:

·       Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except at designated locations.  Designated locations within the Regulated Use Closure area includes, but is not limited to, the following Oregon State Parks:  Emigrant Springs, Ukiah Dale, Catherine Creek, Hilgard Junction, Red Bridge, Wallowa Lake, Minam and Unity Lake.  Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed.

·       Debris burning is prohibited, including the use of burn barrels.

·       Chainsaw use is prohibited except on industrial operations that possess a valid Permit to Operate Power Driven Machinery.

·       Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water, or at a cleared area. 

·       Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), is prohibited except on improved roads, except in the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.

·       Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is prohibited unless specifically waived by the State Forester.

·       Mowing of dried and cured grass with power driven equipment is prohibited.

·       Any electric fence controller in use shall be: 1) Listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or be certified by the Department of Consumer Business Services; and 2) Operated in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions.

·       Possession of the following firefighting equipment is required while traveling except on state highways, county roads and driveways: one shovel and one gallon of water or one 2 ½ pound or larger fire extinguisher.

Also prohibited during fire season is the use of exploding targets, tracer ammunition and sky lanterns.

Citizens are asked to continue to use caution and adhere to regulations.  The public is also reminded that the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests, as well as the BLM are currently under public use restrictions.  Current fire restrictions for forestlands in Northeast Oregon can be found at is your spot for current fire information in the Blue Mountains. 

To report a fire, call Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch at (541)963-7171 or dial 9-1-1. 


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