OREGON – The Oregon Department of Forestry is warning that this past weekend’s fires show that fire danger is increasing.
Besides Jackson County’s Saturday wildfire, Rural Metro Fire reported a structure fire that spread to a Josephine County home Saturday.
“It’s time for everyone to put their Smokey hat on,” said Tom Fields, Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire prevention coordinator. “The continued drought and unseasonably warm weather we’re facing could lead to unintentional wildfires.”
Before the weekend started, Fields said ODF firefighters already had been busy this year with 267 fires burning more 1,900 acres, more than twice the 10-year average for number of fires.
Fire crews on patrol have also extinguished about a dozen abandoned campfires.
“The last thing anyone wants is to have their holiday weekend ruined by not putting out their campfire,” Fields said.
Fields reiterated that people should follow well-known fire prevention tips listed below:
• Before camping, always contact the forest district, agency or landowner first for any campfire restrictions where you plan to recreate.
• Have water and fire tools: take a shovel and a bucket of water to extinguish any escaped embers. When ready to leave, drown all embers with water, stir the coals, and drown again. Repeat these steps until the fire is DEAD out. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
• Select the right spot. Where campfires are allowed, choose a site with an existing ring. Fire pits in established campgrounds are the best spots. If you choose to build a campfire, avoid building it near your tent, structures, vehicles, shrubs or trees, and be aware of low-hanging branches overhead. Clear the site down to bare soil, at least five feet on all sides, and circle it with rocks. Store unused firewood away from the fire.
• Keep your campfire small. A small campfire is less likely to escape control. Add firewood in small amounts as existing material is consumed.
• Attend your campfire at all times. A campfire left unattended for even a few minutes can grow into a costly, damaging wildfire. Stay with your campfire from start to finish until it is dead out, as required by law.
• Consider alternatives to a campfire this summer. Portable camp stoves are a safer option to campfires at any time of year. Areas that prohibit campfires outside maintained campgrounds with established fire pits often allow camp stoves.
• Never use gasoline or other accelerants: don’t use flammable or combustible liquids, such as gasoline, propane or lighter fluid, to start or increase your campfire.
• Burn ONLY local wood: hauling firewood to a remote campground can transport invasive species. State regulations prohibit open burning of any other material that creates dense, toxic smoke or noxious odors.
State and federal law also require the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires at any time of year.
May is Wildfire Awareness Month, and though the month is near its end, fire awareness is an ongoing priority for Southern Oregon and Northern California.
Visit www.keeporegongreen.org for more wildfire prevention information.