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Fire danger moves from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’ in nearby National Forests

Even with the rainy spring, forest officials have increased fire danger levels to 'high' in several national forests in Oregon.
Rachael McDonald
Even with the rainy spring, forest officials have increased fire danger levels to 'high' in several national forests in Oregon.

As hot weather approaches and forest vegetation continues to dry, officials with both the Siuslaw and Umpqua National Forests have raised fire danger from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’. The Deschutes National Forest is also at ‘high’ fire danger. As of Thursday, the Willamette National Forest was still at ‘moderate’ for fire danger.

There are currently no restrictions in place for campfires, but the public is urged to be extra vigilant when they’re out in the woods over the upcoming holiday weekend.

“The Oregon Coast Range is much drier than average for this time of year and we don't see any precipitation in the forecast,” said Chris Donaldson, Deputy Fire Staff Officer with Northwest Oregon Interagency Fire Management. “Lots of folks will likely head outside over the holiday weekend. We ask that everyone is mindful to prevent human-caused fire starts and encourage others to do the same.”

Local firefighters have already detected several small fires this year, both on and off Forest Service lands. Rapid responses by fire crews have kept acreage burned to a minimum. Historically, the majority of fires on the Siuslaw National Forest are human caused.

“We want people to enjoy their time outdoors and at recreation sites as they celebrate Independence Day but to remember that no fireworks are allowed on National Forest lands in Oregon,” said Rebecca Brooke, Siuslaw National Forest Supervisor.

Fireworks are forbidden on National Forest lands.

Historically, the majority of fires in National Forests are human caused.

Fire Danger Rating is expressed using the following Adjective Class Levels:

LOW - Fuels do not ignite readily from small firebrands although a more intense heat source, such as lightning, may start fires in duff or light fuels.

MODERATE - Fires can start from most accidental causes, but with the exception of lightning fires in some areas, the number of starts is generally low.

HIGH - All fine dead fuels ignite readily, and fires start easily from most causes.

VERY HIGH - Fires start easily from all causes and, immediately after ignition, spread rapidly and increase quickly in intensity.

EXTREME - Fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. All fires are potentially serious.

Industrial Fire Precaution Levels (IFPLs) are stages of restrictions that apply to work activities, including personal firewood cutting, on Forest Service lands to reduce the risk of a wildfire igniting. There are four IFPL that begin with Level One and can go as high as Level Four if conditions warrant. The forest will be moving to an IFPL II at 12:01 am Monday, July 3 on all ranger districts across the forest. IFPL II is a “Partial Hoot Owl” which allows for the following between the hours of 8 pm to 1 pm:

  • Power Saws (except at loading sites), 
  • Cable yarding, and 
  • Blasting, welding, or cutting of metal. 

While the IFPL doesn’t apply to recreators, visitors are encouraged to be cautious with fire while outdoors. On busy weekends, fire officials see a spike in human-caused fires from unattended campfires, fireworks, dragging tow chains, driving on dry grass, and dumping of hot ashes and BBQ coals. Please remember these fire prevention tips when visiting public lands:

  • Leave the fireworks at home - Fireworks and exploding targets for recreational shooting are prohibited on public land. 
  • Know before you go - Check ahead of your adventure for fire restrictions or closure.
  • Drown your campfire - Make sure your fire is "dead out" and cold to the touch before leaving your campsite or going to bed. Keep your campfire small and use a designated campfire ring when available. 
  • Don’t be the spark - Do not drive or park on dry grass. Hot exhaust pipes or sparks can start a fire. 
  • Check your chains - When pulling a trailer, be sure safety chains and other metal parts aren't hanging from your vehicle as these can drag and cause sparks. 
  • Smoke responsibly - Follow all posted restrictions. Never discard cigarette butts on the ground or in vegetation. Fully extinguish cigarette butts before throwing them away. 
Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.
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