LAKEVIEW, Ore. – For many people, Labor Day weekend is traditionally enjoyed time to recreate on area public lands or work on outdoor projects.
Even with recent cooler temperatures, fire danger remains Extreme. Fire officials from the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) ask the public to stay vigilant with anything that can start a wildfire this Labor Day Weekend.
“As we enter this first holiday weekend of September, we all need to stay on point with all prevention activities,” said Randall Baley, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Protection Unit Forester in Klamath Falls. “This summer has been one of the most challenging, if not the most, in modern history as far as fuel conditions, weather conditions, large fires, and air quality.”
South Central Oregon experienced an unprecedented early start to fire season, with incidents like grass fires starting as early as February and progressively larger wildfires with evacuations starting in late March. The Bootleg Fire, started by lightning and discovered on July 6, rapidly became the third largest fire in Oregon history due to extremely dry fuel conditions.
“Working together to not be careless with fire can help us begin to recover and recoup from what we have just gone through here in South Central Oregon,” Baley said. “Please know your restrictions, regulations, and most of all, please be careful if out enjoying the holiday weekend.”
Summer holiday weekends, including Labor Day, see an increase in abandoned campfires on area wildlands. Currently campfires are prohibited as part of Public Use Restrictions on most public lands in South Central Oregon. The latest restrictions and regulations, including for ODF and the federal agencies are available at https://scofmp.org/restrictions.shtml.
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.
It is also important to remember that in addition to the Public use Restrictions, Forest Closures remain in effect in and around the Bootleg Fire area.
Visitors to public and private wildlands should always use caution to prevent human-caused wildfires. To reduce the risk, 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.
- 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. Exhaust from ATVs and motorcycles can also ignite wildfires. Maintain proper tire pressure, driving on exposed wheel rims can throw sparks.
- Secure chains properly from trailers or other equipment. Sparks from dragging chains have caused numerous wildfires.
- 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.
“Extreme fire conditions are still present in Klamath and Lake counties, with public use restrictions in place prohibiting all campfires and charcoal fires, even in campgrounds,” said Interagency Fire Management Officer Jeb Koons. “We know many people enjoy a campfire or barbecue while recreating on their public lands over Labor Day weekend. Current conditions still make campfires and barbecues unsafe.”
Temperatures this weekend are forecasted to be in the upper 80s to lower 90s. The pattern continues in the extended forecast with no chance of rain.
“Even with the days getting shorter, fuels are still extremely dry and it does not take much for a spark to grow into a large wildfire,” Koons said. “This summer, we have been fortunate to have area residents and visitors help us prevent human-caused wildfires. We need that assistance to continue through the holiday weekend and over the coming weeks as fire season goes on.”
Suspected wildfires should be reported to 911 as soon as possible.
“We want everyone to have a safe, happy and healthy Labor Day Weekend,” said Koons. “Preventing wildfires will help with that.”