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State forester urges caution with fire during hot weather
September 7, 2011
Kevin Weeks (503) 945-7427
With wildfire danger at the highest levels of the summer and likely to rise further in the coming days, Oregon’s state forester Wednesday urged Oregonians to use utmost care in preventing fires.
“We have high heat, low humidity, and lightning in the forecast – a very dangerous combination,” State Forester Doug Decker said. “We always hope people are careful with fire in the woods. But if there were ever a time for being extra vigilant, it is now.”
Fire danger is high or extreme across most of the state – in the drier eastern and interior southwestern regions, as well as in the Coast Range and the Willamette Valley.
Lightning storms forecast for the end of the week could start many new fires, at a time when water-dropping helicopters and other firefighting resources are already stretched thin.
“We can’t prevent the fires that lightning leaves behind,” Decker said. “But every fire caused by human carelessness pulls away resources that could otherwise be used against those lightning fires.”
In addition, human-caused fires are more likely to occur near communities, where they may threaten homes and other structures, making firefighting more complex and costly.
The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) provides fire protection on 16 million acres, mostly privately owned, but also including state-owned forests and contracted protection of U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands in western Oregon. With fire protection responsibility for about 52 percent of Oregon’s forests, ODF is the state’s largest fire department.
About 95 percent of fires on ODF-protected lands are extinguished while still small. But just a few fires that grow large can cause great damage to natural resources, property and infrastructure, along with high suppression costs and disruption of travel, business and recreation.
So far in the 2011 fire season, 75 percent of the fires ODF resources have responded to are human-caused. A cause of concern is also a sharp increase in the acreage of land affected by human-caused fires; in 2011 thus far, more than 1,400 acres of ODF-protected lands have burned in compared to 418 acres by this same time last year.
Campfires, smoking, off-road driving and industrial activities such as logging are currently restricted on many ODF-protected lands.
Abandoned campfires and driving vehicles in tall grass have been among the causes of fires in recent days. Where campfires are allowed, they must be fully extinguished – by soaking with water, stirring, and soaking again – when campers leave.
Additional information about wildfire prevention is available from Keep Oregon Green, through the association’s website at: www.keeporegongreen.org 
“This is about protecting life and property, and about being good stewards of Oregon’s forests,” Decker said.  “We’re asking for everyone’s cooperation and care in the woods during this critical time.”
Additional web information:
ODF Wildfire Blog - updates on current wildfire information
Current public use or industrial precaution information