Deschutes county issues first-ever fire restrictions
Decision follows early start to fire season
By Tyler Leeds
Deschutes County became the latest government entity to take preventive action against fires Wednesday, declaring a state of emergency and enacting first-ever restrictions on unprotected wildlands and county-owned lands.
The county’s decision follows a winter that left the region with snowpack levels well below average and an early start to the fire season, with the Two Bulls Fire burning nearly 7,000 acres earlier this month. County commissioners emphasized the benefit these regulations will offer unprotected wildlands, which are those outside of city limits, rural fire protection districts and areas protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. These restrictions come on the heels of the Oregon Department of Forestry last week tightening public fire restrictions in its Central Oregon District.
“This addresses what we believe to be a significant wildland fire threat to public safety,” said Joe Stutler, a county senior adviser. “In context of the Two Bulls Fire, it cost $6 million to put out, did $18 million worth of timber damage, and we don’t even know how much economic damage to the county.”
Stutler said that after the fire season ends, the county will evaluate how the added precautions worked and consider implementing a system of tiered restrictions pegged to certain wildland fire risk factors, mirroring the approach taken by other agencies.
“I believe this will be a step forward for the county,” Stutler said.
Before approving the regulations, County Commissioner Tammy Baney asked Sheriff’s Office Capt. Erik Utter about how these restrictions could be enforced.
“If an individual challenges them, we can remove via trespass, so we do have some teeth in it at this point,” Utter said.
The restrictions are scheduled to be lifted Oct. 15, but Stutler said that date could be changed depending on conditions.
The following public use restrictions were put in place Wednesday, affecting unprotected wildlands and county-owned lands in Deschutes County.
• Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads.
• Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except in designated areas. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed.
• Chainsaw use is prohibited between 1 and 8 p.m. Chainsaw use is permitted at all other hours, if the following firefighting equipment is present with each operating saw: one ax, one shovel and one 8-ounce or larger fire extinguisher. In addition, a fire watch is required at least one hour following the use of each saw.
• Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is prohibited from 1 to 8 p.m. At all other times the area is to be cleared of flammable vegetation and the following fire equipment is required: one ax, one shovel and one 2½-pound or larger fire extinguisher.
• Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, is prohibited, except on improved roads and except by a landowner and the landowner’s employees upon their own land while conducting activities associated with their livelihood.
• Possession of the following firefighting equipment is required while traveling in a motorized vehicle, except on federal and state highways, county roads and driveways: one shovel and 1 gallon of water or one 2½-pound or larger fire extinguisher, except all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, which must be equipped with an approved spark arrestor in good working condition.
• Mowing of dried grass with power driven-equipment is prohibited from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.
• Use of fireworks is prohibited.
• Release of sky lanterns is prohibited.
• The discharging of exploding targets or tracer ammunition is prohibited.
• Blasting is prohibited.
• Any electric fence controller in use must be listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services and operated in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions.