Burn bans begin in county

This aerial view of the 2500 Road Fire east of Depoe Bay in August 2016 is evidence of the wildfire threat in Lincoln County. July marks the start of wildfire season in the county, and burn bans are taking effect this week. (File photo)

LINCOLN COUNTY — A ban on the burning of yard debris goes into effect today (Wednesday) in a large portion of Lincoln County, and the ban will expand countywide on Sunday, July 5.

The Lincoln County Fire Defense Board announced the ban in a press release issued on Friday, June 26. Areas closed to burning as of today include Seal Rock, Siletz, Toledo, Waldport and Yachats, as well as unincorporated areas served by the fire districts in those communities. Bans from Newport to the northern county border take effect on Sunday.

Newport Fire Chief Rob Murphy, who also serves as the chief of the Lincoln County Fire Defense Board, said the start of the burn ban is dictated by the fire outlook for this area.

“We got an update from the Northwest Coordination Group; they do wildfire coordination and services for Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and I think part of Montana,” Murphy said. “They gave us a fire weather outlook for the summer. For most all of Oregon, except for the very northwest corner, (the wildfire season) is basically starting in July. They expect warmer-than-average temperatures, lower rainfall than normal and basically a higher level of what they call potential for large wildfire growth.”

Murphy said predictions in May had called for an even earlier start to this year’s fire season, but June rains delayed that somewhat.

With the potential for severe wildfires this year, Murphy said it is important for people to comply with the burn ban because a majority of fires are started by humans. “We saw some data for all the wildfire starts from like 1960 to a couple years ago, information from the Department of Forestry, and probably two-thirds of the fire starts were from some sort of debris burning,” he said.

As far as how the fire ban is enforced, Murphy said it tends to be primarily through education. “We do get pretty good compliance. People are generally pretty good, and once we close burn season down, they stop,” he said. “So it’s usually just an education thing. Ninety-nine percent of the time, everybody’s really good about it, and they understand.”

For now, people are still allowed to have recreational fires, and that will continue to be the case “unless conditions get really bad,” Murphy said. “If we get into what we call red flag warnings from the weather service, that’s when we would go into a total burn ban.”

While most of the more recent “high profile” wildfires have occurred in other parts of the state, Lincoln County has the potential for severe wildfires, Murphy said. “We absolutely do. Not only potential, we’ve had it. There was the 2500 Road Fire near Depoe Bay. And we’ve had other fires, especially in the eastern part of the county. In timberland, there’s been a number of fires.” 

If people have any questions regarding the burn ban and what is or is not permitted, they should contact their local fire district. If people live outside of a county fire district, they should contact the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Phone numbers are:

• North Lincoln Fire & Rescue — 541-996-2233;

• Depoe Bay Fire District — 541-764-2202;

• Newport Fire Department — 541-265-9461;

• Seal Rock Fire District — 541-563-4411;

• Central Oregon Coast Fire District — 541-563-3121;

• Yachats Rural Fire Protection District — 541-547-3266;

• Siletz Valley Fire District — 541-444-2043;

• Toledo Fire Department — 541-336-3311;

• Oregon Department of Forestry (Toledo Unit) — 541-336-2273.

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