LINCOLN COUNTY — Citing extremely dry conditions, heat and unusually high winds that caused thousands of downed trees creating “unprecedented fire and public safety concerns,” the Siuslaw National Forest is closed. A Wednesday press release noted firefighting resources are stretched thin across the region and the nation, making conditions unsafe for forest employees to address hazards due to downed trees.
“This closure covers all Siuslaw National Forest forested, coastal and sand areas and includes the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Sand Lake, developed campgrounds, dispersed camping, day use areas, wilderness areas, and all forest roads and trails,” the statement read.
The closure was effective at noon on Thursday, and forest officials encourage the public to avoid visiting the forest.
“They don’t happen often but the Oregon Coast Range has experienced very large fires in the past,” said Forest Supervisor Robert Sanchez. “Most coastal fires are human caused, so by restricting public access at this time of highest risk we can reduce the chance of new fires igniting when firefighting resources are stretched to capacity. We also have thousands of trees down from recent high winds adding additional safety concerns. We’re asking for people’s patience and cooperation until conditions become safe.”
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Chris Havel told the News-Times the current list of state park closures changes a couple times a day (go online at stateparks.oregon.gov and search “closures”).
“Things are fluid, so no one should even think about visiting a park without checking your county emergency management page,” Havel said. “Staying off the roads to give evacuees and emergency vehicles room to operate is very important.”
Already thin crews are even smaller in some places, Havel explained, with some state parks staff affected personally, making it essential for visitors to check for closures and verify services available.
“For Lincoln County, Devil’s Lake is the obvious closure. We’re tracking the evolution of the evacuation zones and making sure park closures follow suit when they get to Level 2,” Havel said on Thursday afternoon.
“We don’t have set plans at the moment; just waiting to see how things continue to unfold to close parks well before it’s needed.”