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Warm And Dry Conditions Bring Early Fire Danger To Oregon


While many Oregonians are enjoying the warmer and drier weather as of late, state firefighters are wary. That's because the rate of fires is already ahead of normal this year.

Tom Fields is the Fire Prevention Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Forestry.  He told KLCC that a number of burn bans are already in effect in various counties, as officials note landowners attempting to gather -and burn- debris.  But Fields advised against it given current conditions.

“So right now, we’re looking at about 85 fires since January 1. Which comparing to the average of 22 fires this time of year, we’re about four times the number of fires that we normally see here in the spring. Of those 85 fires, more than half of those have been resulting from outdoor debris burning.” 

Fields said it’s fine to still pile up slash and debris, which can be covered with plastic and kept for when more reasonable conditions come, like the fall or winter.

When conditions warrant, follow these simple steps:

  • Place yard debris in an open area away from structures, trees and power lines.
  • Create small piles (4’ x 4’) to better manage the burn.
  • Cover portions of piles with polyethylene plastic (landscape material) to keep a portion dry for lighting later (preferably in late fall or winter).
  • When conditions improve, check with your local fire agency for any regulations in place.
  • Never burn under windy conditions.
  • To maintain containment, create a perimeter around the pile at a minimum of 3 feet, scraped clear to bare mineral soil.
  • Keep a shovel and charged hose nearby to manage the burn.
  • Make sure the pile is dead out before leaving.
  • Return periodically over several weeks to make sure the pile is still out: No heat, no smoke.
  • Stay informed by visiting local fire agency, protective association and ODF web pages as well as Keep Oregon Green and Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal.

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.