October 4, 2012
It’s fall but the wildfires keep coming. The 18-acre Buck Mountain Fire near Eugene in late September and a smaller, but high-potential blaze Tuesday evening up the canyon from Sweet Home serve as reminders of the continuing fire danger.
South Cascade District Forester Greg Wagenblast asks hunters and other recreationists not to let their guard down.
“The humidity is low and we’re having dry easterly winds,” he said. “These conditions, combined with the cured-out grasses and bone-dry forest fuels, have set the stage for fires.”
Firefighters were fortunate to stop the Sweet Home fire at small size during the evening when burning conditions had moderated. If it had burned on into the next day, he said, the outcome might have been different.
“Right now we’re hitting every fire start hard,” he said.
The dry conditions are just one reason for the aggressive initial attack. The other is reduced fire staffing. Most Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) field districts are currently at 50 to 60 percent of their peak firefighting force, since this late in the season seasonal employees have returned to school or their regular jobs.
To cope with this year’s unusually late wildfire activity, South Cascade and the neighboring Western Lane District have extended their firefighting helicopter contract into next week.
Private forest landowners are well aware of the lingering fire danger, and many have closed their lands to public access. Hunters and other recreationists are advised to check the ODF website for a current list of private land closures, www.oregon.gov/odf/Pages/fire/fire.aspx#Forest_Restrictions___Closures
. Another approach is to check with the specific landowner directly for access permission.
“Weather forecasters are saying this dry weather will continue into next week,” the district forester said. “It’s not a typical fall with the rain coming on, so we need to keep following safe practices.”
The South Cascade District protects more than 1.1 million acres of private and public lands from wildfire within Lane and Linn counties. The Western Lane District protects 750,650 acres in western Lane County.