PORTLAND, OR; June 30, 2021 — This week’s record-breaking heat wave is finally behind us, but the risk of wildfire isn’t. This is not the time to become complacent about the danger of sparking a human-caused fire, Forest Service fire officials warn.
“People ask all the time how they can help firefighters. One of the biggest ways is to help prevent the start of fires,” said Alex Robertson, Director of Fire, Fuels and Aviation for the Pacific Northwest Region and Alaska.
Weather experts forecast an elevated risk of severe fire throughout all of Oregon and in eastern Washington through this weekend.
Land managers base decisions regarding public use restrictions and seasonal burn bans on current conditions. Fire departments, county sheriff’s departments, and regional dispatch centers may be good sources to check for information about the current level of fire risk and current restrictions in their area. On National Forests in Washington and Oregon, public use restrictions are posted to the forest’s website.
Explosives and pyrotechnic devices, including fireworks and explosive targets, are prohibited on National Forests in Oregon and Washington at all times. Violators who bring fireworks onto national forests and grasslands can be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced with up to six months in jail (36 CFR 261.52). Anyone who starts a wildfire can be held liable by the government for suppression costs, and may be subject to civil liability for private property damage.
Fire knows no boundaries – so it’s important for community members and forest visitors to respect burn bans and other safety-related fire and public use restrictions for both public and privately-owned lands, and to familiarize themselves with fire prevention practices, Robertson said.
“We’ll never know the name of the fire we didn’t start. Small steps make a big difference,” he said.
More fire prevention tips for the July 4 holiday weekend:
Don’t start a fire unless you have the tools to put it out! Keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby. Never leave a fire burning unattended. Put out fires by dousing embers with water, stirring, and dousing again until the ashes are cool to the touch.
If your holiday plans include cooking outdoors, use a gas grill or have a plan to dispose of burned coals safely. Hot embers and charcoal can smolder for days, then reemerge as flames long after you’ve left.
When camping, check ahead to see if campfires are allowed at your locations and use metal fire rings where provided. Consider using a gas or liquid fuel stove that can be turned off when not in use instead of a charcoal grill or campfire.
Make sure your vehicle is in good repair before travelling. Hot weather can lead to tire blowouts and riding on rims creates sparks. If towing a camper, boat or trailer, ensure tow chains are elevated to prevent dragging across rocks or pavement - which can also create sparks. Avoid driving or parking over dry brush or grass; your vehicle’s undercarriage gets very hot and could ignite a fire.
Motorized equipment, including ATVs, and motorbikes and chainsaws, should be recently-serviced and have working spark-arrestors.
Lawnmower blades can create sparks if they strike rocks – make sure you clear your yard of debris before mowing. During extremely dry weather, limit use of mowers, tractors and chainsaws to the coolest hours of the day, and switch to lower-risk activities like pulling weeds and removing brush by hand and using a string-based trimmer to cut back tall grass.
OLYMPIC NF: Extremely heavy traffic and visitor use is expected along the Lake Cushman corridor during warm weather and on holiday weekends; daytime parking is limited. Alcohol, camping, campfires, and overnight parking are prohibited along Forest Service Road 24 and Forest Service Road 2451. Heavy use is also expected at other lake and river areas throughout the area, including Lake Crescent; visitors are warned warm weather does not mean warm waters; enter water slowly when swimming or wading and wear a properly-fitted, U.S. Coast Guard approved life-jacket when required. Human-habituated and aggressive mountain goats have been reported on high alpine trails; stay at least 50 yards away and yell, wave your arms, or throw rocks to discourage goats from approaching. For more information, click here. For road conditions, click here.
GIFFORD PINCHOT NF: Beginning Friday, July 2, all campfires, charcoal or briquette fires, pellet fires, or any other open fires will be prohibited under a Forest Order, including in developed campgrounds, due to increased risk of fires as a result of continued hot, dry conditions. Portable cooking stoves and lanterns using liquefied or bottled fuel, such as propane, will be allowed as they can be instantly switched off. Additionally, target shooting is temporarily prohibited. Additionally, the Ape Caves recently reopened to the public; timed reservation tickets are now required. Tickets are released on a rolling basis, three days prior to the date of the planned visit. For more information, visit Recreation.gov. For a complete recreation conditions report, visit the forest’s website.
MT. BAKER-SNOQUALMIE NF: Increased interactions between humans and bears have been reported; visitors can help reduce the risk of attracting bears by using bear-safe food storage and waste disposal methods, including use of bear lockers and bear-resistant trash receptacles where offered. Recreation activities that involve travelling at a high rate of speed (such as mountain biking and jogging) also increase the risk of surprise encounters with wildlife; for safety tips, click here. For forest alerts and notices, click here. For road and trail conditions, click here. For recreation site status updates, click here.
OKANOGAN-WENATCHEE NF: Public use restrictions are now in effect, which limit campfires, smoking, driving off-road. For more information, click here. Additionally: Rider's Camp will be closed for the season due to hazard trees resulting from a mountain pine beetle activity. For more alerts and notices, visit the forest’s website.
COLVILLE NF: Brown’s Lake, Ferry Lake, Ten Mile and Little Twin Lakes campgrounds are closed due to the presence of hazard trees. Mystic Lake and No Name Lake campgrounds are closed to vehicles and for overnight; walk-in access for day use is allowed. Davis Lake is closed for repairs. For recreation area status updates, click here.