For the Oct. 1 general big game season opener, predicted dry conditions in most forested areas of Oregon underscore the need for hunters to be fire safety conscious. Even though fall is in the air, careless actions can still spark a wildfire.
Parched grasses, brush and other fine fuels can ignite from a variety of sources – an errant spark from a campfire or warming fire, a discarded cigarette, or a hot exhaust system contacting vegetation. And under fall conditions, these fire starts often don’t become apparent until hours or even days later.
A warming fire built on a hillside in the early morning hours to take the chill off may appear to be out when the hunter eventually moves on. But the ashes can retain heat. On the next sunny day, a little wind can rekindle that “dead” fire and cause it to spread into a wildfire.
The safest place for a campfire is in a campground with established fire pits. Before leaving a campfire or warming fire, be sure to douse it repeatedly with water, stirring the ashes each time to ensure it is completely extinguished.
When driving a full-sized vehicle or ATV in the forest, always carry fire equipment required by the jurisdictional land management agency. And before heading to your hunting location, check the current rules on vehicle use. In some areas, off-road use of motorized vehicles may be prohibited.
Likewise with smoking: Check the rules. Depending on the fire danger level, smoking may be restricted to inside a closed vehicle or building. In any case, never discard smoking materials in grass or other vegetation.
The good news for hunters is that the dry conditions are forecast to change Sunday evening with the onset of rain in many areas.
For additional fire safety tips and current fire restrictions, contact the Oregon Department of Forestry or the Keep Oregon Green Association.