Monday, February 12, 2018

Wallowa County wildfires are a good reminder to exercise caution with spring burning

La Grande, OR- A pattern of early spring weather has lots of northeast Oregon citizens enjoying the outdoors. From cleaning up around the property to enjoying the recreation the area has to offer, many people are taking advantage of the warm and dry weather. The lack of winter precipitation has made it easy to get out, but it has also provided good conditions for early season fires.

“We’re at that time of year when things are dry despite it being ‘winter’. Fire danger is fairly high right now because the dead vegetation hasn’t started to green up. Add a little bit of wind to that and it’s a recipe for fires.” said Matt Howard, Unit Forester in Wallowa.

Two wildfires ignited on Saturday in Wallowa County. One fire was contained at approximately ¼ acre and the other burned nearly 20 acres. Fire crews from Joseph, Enterprise, Lostine and Wallowa fire departments assisted ODF on these incidents.

“Make sure your fire is dead out before leaving the area, and don’t burn when windy.” Advised Howard.

Debris burning is the number one human-cause of wildfire. Many of these fires take place before and after the normal fire season. ODF officials encourage landowners to heed caution and refer to the following checklist before burning:

* Call your local fire department to see if a burning permit is required. Burning regulations are not
the same in all areas.

* Prepare by having a shovel and charged garden hose or other water source at the burn site.

* Find a clear site away from buildings and trees with overhanging branches.

* Clear a fire trail down to mineral soil around the pile or incinerator of at least 10 feet in diameter.

* Divide large piles into smaller piles. Smaller piles burn quickly and efficiently and are easier to control.

* Avoid burning during windy conditions. Embers can travel and ignite spot fires nearby.

* Stay with the fire, wetting down the edges to prevent escape, until it is completely out.

* Remember, unattended piles can quickly spread out of control. If your debris burn escapes control, call 911 immediately.

Landowners are reminded that this is a great time of year to make your property wildfire-safe. Be sure and remove all dead leaves and needles from your roof and gutters. Create a defensible space of 30 to 100 feet around your home by clearing brush and moving wood piles. Keep your lawn well irrigated and make sure your driveway is clearly marked and accessible for emergency vehicles and equipment. For more information, contact your nearest ODF office. 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.