“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” says Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields when asked about the pending arrival of fall. “We are still experiencing extreme fire danger conditions throughout much of the state and we need everyone to remain vigilant in their efforts to prevent human caused fires.”
The National Weather Service is predicting continued hot weather through the weekend with much of western Oregon under a Red Flag Warning through Saturday. Combined with off shore winds and dry vegetation, the recipe for large fires is still a concern.
While the 525 human-caused fires in 2014 reflects the 10-year average on lands protected by ODF, the 13,000 acres burned is 10,000 more than the average. The Two Bulls Fire near Bend in early June and the Moccasin Fire near Klamath Falls in mid-July were two human caused fires that accounted for 9,500 of those acres. The Moccasin Fire also destroyed 17 homes.
“That’s just a testament to the type of conditions we have faced all summer,” says Fields. “Just one spark can lead to a fire, and that fire has the potential to grow exponentially in a very short amount of time.”
State Fire Marshal Jim Walker is encouraging Oregonians to use extreme caution and to practice safe outdoor equipment use. “The impact of these fires has been far reaching to citizens and communities. Following a few basic outdoor safety tips can keep the final days of summer enjoyable and safe.”
As always, check what fire restrictions are in place before you head out. Most areas prohibit campfires outside approved campgrounds. Where campfires are allowed, be sure and build them in a safe area and most importantly, put them completely out before leaving.
Smoking and off road driving is also prohibited. Even vehicles idling over dry grass along the side of the road can start a fire. Earlier this week, a motor home ignited 10 small fires along Highway 97 when hot particles from a faulty catalytic converter spewed out into nearby dry grass.
Each year Oregon is faced with the challenge of wildfires impacting our forests and communities. We all have a stake in protecting what we feel is important to quality of life. In that vein, two opponents on the field are teaming up together to help put an end to careless human caused fires. Football coaches Mike Riley of Oregon State University and Mark Helfrich of the University of Oregon are spreading the word to “tackle” wildfires. Join the team today by visiting www.keeporegongreen.org.