Wildfire season expected early in valley

June 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips

Persistent drought conditions throughout the state have caused the Oregon Department of Forestry to declare the start of the wildfire season in Central Oregon early this year. And as Central Oregon goes, so, too, will the Willamette Valley.

Beginning Monday morning, June 9, ODF offices will begin imposing restrictions on the public and on private interests who work in the state’s forests in the Central Oregon District, which includes Prineville and parts of Eastern Oregon.

The ODF prohibitions come one week earlier this year, and about three weeks earlier than what is considered normal.

Residents will be prohibited from burning any debris outdoors. Also banned for the season is the use of fireworks, tracer ammunition, and any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge at its base.

“People are often fooled this time of year,” said Link Smith, district forester for the Western Lane District, which includes Eugene, Veneta and land west to the coast. “It’s still technically legal to burn, so people will light some leaves, then the phone rings and they turn their backs, the wind blows, and the fire will jump to a neighbor’s house. They don’t believe it can take off that fast.”

Smith said that drought conditions in much of the state are responsible for the early wildfire season declaration. He added that the rapid rise in energy release components (ERCs), a collection of indices such as temperature and wind conditions that forced the early declaration in Central Oregon, will likely cause the Mid-Valley’s wildfire season to be announced sooner than normal as well.

“Southern Oregon, such as Medford and Grants Pass and Eastern Oregon always go first,” Smith said. “Then, in pretty rapid order, it’ll be Douglas and Lane counties and then within the next few weeks, the North Cascade District will go, too.”

Smith said some late spring showers kept the valley green longer.

“Brown is pretty much the indicator for us,” Smith said. “Salem still has some green grass; tall, but green; everything in Grants Pass is just brown.” Salem and the greater Mid-Valley metropolitan area are in the ODF’s North Cascade district.

George Ponte, district forester for the state’s Central Oregon ODF District, said wildfire safety restrictions can change quickly during the season, and they vary from one jurisdiction to another.

Campers, hikers and other recreationists planning to visit the state’s national forests, Bureau of Land Management or other federal lands are encouraged to check with local federal offices for the latest information on current restrictions.

“The professionals who forecast fire conditions anticipate higher than normal potential for large, destructive wildfires not only in Oregon, but much of the West,” Ponte said. “… Any fire, whether caused by lightning or human activities will have the potential to become a large and destructive one.”

ccurrie@statesmanjournal.com; (503) 399-6746 or follow on Twitter at @CATMCurrie;

Fire season

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon District, which includes parts of Eastern Oregon, announced its fire season on June 14 last year compared to June 9 this year.

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