Published by Kristin Babbs
SALEM, Ore. — Three Oregon Department of Forestry fire protection districts from the mid-coast through the southern Willamette Valley to the crest of the Cascades entered fire season on Thursday, June 21. ODF-protected lands covered by the declaration include state, private, county, and city forestland, as well as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forestlands in western Oregon.
The West Oregon, Western Lane and South Cascade districts protect lands in Benton, Lane, Lincoln, Polk, southern Linn County and a portion of northwest Douglas County.
An unusually dry May and early June prompted the declarations.
“We’ve received a couple shots of rain recently, but that doesn’t make up for the dry spring we’ve experienced this year. The result is that we are a couple weeks ahead of where we traditionally are regarding fuel moistures and fire conditions in the forest,” said Western Lane District Forester Link Smith.
Chris Cline is district forester for ODF’s South Cascade District based in Springfield. He said fuel moistures in eastern Lane and southern Linn counties are already similar to what they historically would be for the beginning of July. “We look carefully at local conditions in determining when to declare the start of fire season. What they are telling us is that in our district it is now dry enough for wildfires that do start to have the potential to spread more rapidly.”
As of June 20, more than 200 wildfires were reported on ODF-protected lands throughout Oregon. These burned just over 200 acres. More than 80% of those fires were caused by people. In light of those numbers, West Oregon District Forester Mike Totey said, “Most wildfires at this time of year are triggered by people, so they are almost entirely preventable with some foresight. An activity that might be low risk when vegetation is thoroughly soaked and humidity is high could ignite a wildfire when longer hours of sunlight, warmth and relatively light rainfall have started drying those fuels out.”
Fire restrictions in ODF districts vary somewhat. To find out what restrictions are in place at any given location, go online to ODF’s statewide fire restrictions and closures page at www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx or call the ODF office below that is nearest:
- Western Lane (Veneta) – 541-935-2222
- West Oregon (Philomath) – 541-929-6300 and press 1
- South Cascade – (Springfield) – 541-726-3588 and press 2
Six other ODF districts and forest protective associations in southern and eastern Oregon have been in fire season since earlier this month due to warm, dry conditions that have elevated fire risk.