KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — With continued warm weather, dry vegetation, and the recent threat of lightning, officials are ratcheting up the fire restrictions in south central Oregon. The fire danger level will rise to "High" (yellow) first thing Friday morning in Klamath and Lake counties, according to the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership.
"The High Fire Danger is an indicator of that conditions have the potential for rapid fire spread and major damage," SCOFMP said in a statement.
The Oregon Department of Forestry's public regulated use closure will go into effect on Friday, which applies to all private, county and state wildlands and includes the following restrictions:
- 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 at designated locations. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed.
- Chain saw use is prohibited between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Chain saw use is allowed at all other hours if the following firefighting equipment is present with each operating saw: one axe, one shovel, and one 8-ounce or larger fire extinguisher. A fire watch also is required at least one hour following the use of each saw.
- The use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, is prohibited, except on improved roads; except for vehicle use by a landowner and employees of the landowner conducting activities associated with their livelihood. Landowners and their employees conducting activities associated with their livelihood shall carry a shovel and 2 ½ pound fire extinguisher when operating ATV’s off improved roads.
- Possession of the following firefighting equipment is required while traveling in a motorized vehicle, except on state highways, county roads and driveways: one shovel and one gallon of water or one 2 ½ pound or larger fire extinguisher, except for all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles, which must be equipped with an approved spark arrestor in good working condition.
- Use of fireworks is prohibited.
- Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is prohibited. For landowners and employees of the landowner on their own land while conducting activities associated with their livelihood, cutting, grinding and welding of metal is prohibited between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. At all other times, the area is to be cleared of flammable vegetation, and the following firefighting equipment is required: one axe, one shovel, and one 2 ½ pound or larger fire extinguisher in good working order.
For industrial activities like timber harvesting, the Industrial Fire Precaution Level will also be raised to II (two) — restricting activity on Fremont-Winema National Forest and BLM Lakeview District lands to between 8 p.m. to 1 p.m. local time for power saws except at loading site, cable yarding, blasting, welding and cutting of metals. Personal and commercial firewood cutters are responsible to stay informed of current IFPLs and all restrictions that apply to activities conducted on public lands.
"This year has seen an early start to wildfire season in South Central Oregon and conditions continue to dry out as summer approaches," SCOFMP said. "The public is asked to use extreme caution with anything that can potentially spark a wildfire. Equipment should be checked to ensure spark arresters are in working order."
Anyone going out into wildlands should be prepared with water, a shovel, fire extinguisher and axe. Officials said that campfires should never be left unattended and should be "dead out and cold to the touch" before leaving. If you suspect a wildfire near you, please report it to 911.