Fire season has begun weeks earlier than usual in parts of Oregon, a result of drier-than-normal conditions so far this spring, the U.S. Forest Service reiterated Monday.
Experts see a propensity for wildfires beginning in June, according to the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook.
“(S)ignificant fire potential is predicted to be above normal in much of the West,” the Forest Service report said.
The increase in wildfire risk coincides with the usual ban on open burning in Central Oregon after May 30. Open burning is allowed November through May in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties.
In Deschutes County, outside the city limits of Bend and Sisters, open burning is allowed through the end of May as usual, said county forester Ed Keith.
“If an agricultural producer needs to burn, there are ways to go through a process and receive a permit,” he said.
Each county has its own regulations regarding fire size, required distance from structures and permitting. Check with your local fire protection district prior to burning.
No open-debris burning is allowed in Bend. Recreational fires, barbecue pits and bonfires are allowed as long as they meet the city’s guidelines. Contact the Bend Fire Department at 541-322-6309 to learn more, or view a PDF of Bend’s guidelines at www.bend.or.us/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=3127.
Keith said at least a few human-caused fires could have been prevented each year had better attention been paid to the fire.
“Around this time of year when things haven’t yet greened up and are still really dry, we see them,” he said. “Someone will be burning and will go inside to eat or answer the phone, then the wind kicks up and the fire will spread to a neighbor’s yard.”
Keith stresses staying with the fire, having a water source nearby and being certain the fire is completely out before leaving.
From 2001-2011, an average of 85 percent of wildfires in the U.S. were human-caused, according to statistics from the U.S. Forest Service. Taking care when burning fires at home can save lives, natural resources and millions of dollars.
In 2012, 9.3 million acres of private, state, and federal land, and more than 4,400 structures burned in wildfires, the third-highest number of acres burned since at least 1960, according to the Forest Service.
— From staff reports