LAKEVIEW, Ore. – Following a severely hot and dry week, the raising of Fire Danger to Extreme and an early start to Public Use Restrictions for the agencies of the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP), it is critical that area residents and visitors take actions to prevent wildfires.
“Human-caused wildfires are entirely preventable,” said Randall Baley, Protection Unit Forester for Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF). “With the current conditions, it is extremely important that people are vigilant with anything that can spark a wildfire, call 911 as soon as a wildfire starts, and have the recommended items on hand for initial firefighting, including at least a gallon of water or a 2 ½ pound or larger fire extinguisher, a shovel and an axe.”
The current fuel conditions in the SCOFMP area in Klamath and Lake counties are closer to August than early July, with extremely dry fuels that can carry wildfire rapidly.
The July 4 holiday weekend is popular for outdoor recreation, including camping, barbecues and family celebrations. While there are fireworks being sold locally, fireworks are not allowed on federal lands and are currently not allowed on ODF protected private, county and state wildlands.
“Fuel conditions right now are so dry that even sparklers or poppers could ignite a large wildfire,” said Baley. “If you choose to use fireworks this July 4, please restrict it to areas where it is permitted and take appropriate safety measures. For those living in the wildland urban interface, on forested lands, or who are recreating on public lands, these are not places for firework use, especially this year.”
Fireworks can cause costly and dangerous wildfires, especially when conditions are hot and dry, and vegetation is receptive to sparks. Fires caused by fireworks on public lands may result in the user being cited and billed for the cost of fire suppression.
Summer holiday weekends, including the Fourth of July, typically see an increase in abandoned campfires on public lands.
“Public Use Restrictions are currently in effect on public lands, which means campfires are restricted to designated areas as identified in the individual orders for each agency,” said Interagency Fire Management Officer Jeb Koons. “If you are in an area that allows campfires, never leave it unattended and make sure that it is dead out and cold to the touch before leaving.”
The public is responsible for ensuring that they have reviewed and are aware of the restrictions in place for the landscape they plan to recreate or work on. For all agencies, violation of these prohibitions could result in citations, fines, and even imprisonment, depending on the agency and order.
For more information on the ODF Public Regulated Use Closure, please visit https://www.oregon.gov/odf/fire/pages/restrictions.aspx. For more information on the federal agency Public Use Restrictions and Fire Prevention Orders, please visit https://scofmp.org/restrictions.shtml.
To help prevent wildfires, it’s advised to do the following:
- Before going camping, check fire restrictions in place and never leave a campfire unattended. Build campfires in cleared open areas and keep water and a shovel nearby. Make sure campfires are out and cool to the touch before leaving the area.
- Consider alternatives to a campfire, such as a portable camp stove.
- If using charcoal, make sure to drown and stir them, repeating until they are cold to the touch.
- Smoking should only be in a closed vehicle or fire-safe area and always dispose of cigarette debris in some type of an ashtray. Check local Use Regulations for specific rules.
- Avoid driving and parking in tall grass or on roads with heavy, fine fuel accumulations. Exhaust particles, hot exhaust pipes and hot catalytic converters can start grass fires in a matter of seconds. Also, maintain proper tire pressure – driving on exposed wheel rims can throw sparks.
- Secure chains properly from trailers or other equipment. Sparks from dragging chains, and exhaust from ATVs and motorcycles, can start grass fires. Spark arresters are required on all recreational and portable gasoline-powered equipment.
- Carry firefighting equipment in vehicles, including a shovel, at least one gallon of water or one 2 ½ pound or larger fire extinguisher.
“We have already seen a number of large fires this season, with several in Klamath County requiring evacuations since late March,” said Baley. “Helping to prevent wildfires by being safe, responsible and staying vigilant will avoid the need for evacuations of residences, recreation facilities and campgrounds, and let everyone – including our area wildland firefighters – have an enjoyable holiday weekend.”
An additional challenge for SCOFMP agencies in Klamath and Lake counties this week is lightning in the forecast and recent Red Flag Warnings for dry conditions and abundant lightning on dry fuels.
“The SCOFMP agencies have exceptional wildland firefighters prepared to respond to fires from the incoming lightning,” said Koons. “That preparedness is improved by reducing the human-caused fires they need to respond to.”
Fire managers appreciate the assistance and cooperation from area residents and visitors to prevent wildfires through the holiday weekend and as the summer continues.
“We’ve already seen an active start to fire season and fuels conditions continuing to be six weeks or more ahead of the average,” said Koons. “Our area residents and visitors are important partners in helping us prevent large and destructive wildfires throughout this summer. We want everyone to have a safe, healthy and happy Fourth of July holiday and that starts with preventing wildfires!”