Editorial: County should impose fire restrictions

Published Jun 24, 2014 at 12:01AM

Deschutes County commissioners are likely to approve new restrictions on land outside fire districts and the protection of the Oregon Department of Forestry when they meet Wednesday. Given the warmer days and already-dry woods, the proposed changes make sense.

The restrictions would limit smoking to inside vehicles on improved roads and ban campfires except in designated areas (stoves with liquefied or bottled fuels would be allowed). They would prohibit the use of fireworks, exploding targets and tracer bullets, and blasting would be forbidden. There are other restrictions proposed, as well, that may have an impact on farmers and others in rural areas.

Some of the proposed restrictions mirror those in place on the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests and the Crooked River National Grasslands and on state Department of Forestry lands. There, restrictions are those laid out in Industrial Fire Precautions Level II, also known as Partial Hootowl. As is true in the county, certain work on state and national forest and grasslands is limited to the time between 8 p.m. and 1 p.m. to reduce the possibility of starting fire during the hottest part of the day. In addition, visitors to national lands in the area must follow the closed fire season requirements laid out on the Deschutes National Forest website.

While the restrictions put some limits on what people can do in much of the county’s great outdoors, they’ll be in place for the best of all possible reasons: to reduce the chance that the recent Two Bulls Fire won’t be the first of a string of similar events this summer.

That fire was relatively early in the year and cost more than $6 million to fight. It drew crews from fire departments in the Willamette Valley and elsewhere around the state, men and women who helped protect the homes endangered by the blaze west of Bend.

Worse, it wasn’t the first fire of the season. Already this year, nearly 8,000 acres of state-protected land across Oregon have burned in more than 160 fires, according to the forestry department. With the summer tourism season freshly underway, the risk of more incidents only increases.

Oregonians cannot prevent lightning-caused fires. They can lessen the chances of man-caused fires, however, by learning about and obeying the rules aimed at helping them do just that.