Labor Day weekend risky time for human-caused fires

Firefighters have been busy fighting fires in Oregon and are hoping humans will be careful not to start any new fires over Labor Day weekend.

Labor Day weekend is a traditional time to head outdoors. The fire prevention organization Keep Oregon Green, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Oregon State Fire Marshal and local fire agencies statewide want Oregonians to be aware large fires in Oregon have started during this time, threatening communities and Oregon’s forests.

“The Oregon Department of Forestry and our private forest landowners, federal, tribal and local partners statewide have been working especially hard this summer to quickly catch fire starts, particularly in areas near where people live and work,” said ODF Chief of Fire Protection Doug Grafe. “So far we’ve had good success at keeping most fires small. But high to extreme fire danger continues into September, a time when we often see fire starts because of human activity.”

State Fire Marshal Jim Walker said, “Through the Labor Day weekend, we are expecting warming and drying conditions that create a potential for large and costly fires. We are asking all Oregonians to support their local fire service and all wildland firefighters by taking every precaution to prevent accidental fire starts that could easily escalate to a larger wildfire.”

Oregon’s forests have been overrun with crowds this summer. Some are discovering Oregon instead of traveling out-of-state during a pandemic. Others just want some fresh air and scenery after being cooped up at home with family or roommates. When established campgrounds are full, people have resorted to camping in dispersed areas with no designated fire pits.

Keep Oregon Green President Kristin Babbs said hundreds of abandoned campfires have been found still burning or smoldering at dispersed camping sites across the state.

“Campfires pose a major threat of new wildfires this time of year, as it only takes one spark landing in dry grass to start a wildfire,” Babbs said. 

Regardless of your weekend plans, Babbs says it is important to know the current fire restrictions in effect before leaving home.  All public fire restrictions can be found online at gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/PFR.html.

Many private or large landowners may have further restrictions or complete closures in place on their land due to the fire danger.  Babbs recommends before you head to the great outdoors that you contact the owner of the land where you plan to recreate for any additional closure information. 

Complete burn ban enacted

The Lincoln County Fire Defense Board and the nine county fire protection agencies have announced the closing of all burning effective today (Friday) at 8 a.m. 

The fire ban applies to wood, charcoal and other flame sources that cannot be turned off with a valve. Liquid fuel stoves or cooking devices that can be turned off with a valve are permitted but cannot be left unattended. This ban includes fires in campgrounds and on the beaches.

Fire danger is at an extreme high, officials said. Lower-than-normal fuel moisture levels along with forecasted hotter/dryer weather compound the danger. Local fire agencies have limited resources to respond to a wildland fire.

This burn ban will remain in effect until conditions moderate and notification provided by the Lincoln County Fire Defense Board. For more information, contact your local fire agency.

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