Fire Season: The threat we all share

Fire season is back, amid hot temperatures in the Columbia Gorge.

Looking ahead, the dual threat next month of hordes of eclipse watchers — and their vehicles, cigarettes and illegal campfires — and high fire season throughout the north and eastern areas of the state will be bad enough for fire suppression and law enforcement agencies.

Don’t think that won’t affect us here in the relatively-green Mid-Columbia.

Witness the Dry Creek Fire near Mount Adams to the north, the Indian Creek Fire (at the Multnomah County line) to the west, and the newly-started Summer Lake fire in central Oregon. Not only are fire conditions as bad here as just about anywhere else, local firefighters are often called to work fires far afield. This puts them in added jeopardy and drains local resources.

What it adds up to is this: Officials are urging the public to take precautions given the scorcher conditions and potentially windy days.

Oregon Department of Forestry’s regulated closure restrictions took effect Friday, June 30 for ODF-protected lands in central Oregon. These lands include private, municipal and state lands protected by the Central Oregon District.

Most notably, a burn ban took effect July 1 for burn barrels in Hood River and Wasco counties. (Note, however, to not panic if you see a plume of smoke from an agricultural area, where farmers can receive permission during fire season to do limited burning.)

Warm summer temperatures over the last few weeks have dried forest fuels, increasing fire behavior and the potential for rapid fire growth throughout the district. Recent lightning activity has kept firefighters busy, but an even greater risk comes from the increase in human-caused fires in the last week.

Keep in mind:

• Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads.

• Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except in designated areas.

• Chainsaw use is prohibited, between the hours of 1-8 p.m. Chainsaw use is permitted at all other hours, if the following firefighting equipment is present with each operating saw: one axe, one shovel, and one operational eight ounce or larger fire extinguisher. In addition, a fire watch is required at least one hour following the use of each saw.

• Mowing of dried grass with power driven equipment is prohibited, between the hours of 1-8 p.m., except for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.

• Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, is prohibited, except on improved roads and except for vehicle use by a landowner and employees of the landowner upon their own land while conducting activities associated with their livelihood.

• Beginning July 1, open burning, including burn barrels in Hood River and Wasco counties, will be prohibited.

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