Backyard burning ban extended

The current ban on backyard burning of yard waste in Linn and Benton counties has been extended until further notice, the Oregon Department of Forestry announced Sept. 23.

Instituted June 16, the prohibition on burning of shrub and tree trimmings and other yard debris as well as household waste was originally scheduled to be lifted Sept. 30. But Sweet Home Unit Forester Kevin Crowell said current conditions prompted extension of the ban.

“The districts are still experiencing fires that spread rapidly due to the dry fuels and lack of rainfall,” he said. “We’ve had an extended period of curing and drying, and the season-ending rains haven’t come yet.”

Put in place every June, the burn ban has been successful over the years at reducing the incidence of wildfires caused by escaped backyard debris fires, according to officials.

Extension of the backyard burn ban is supported by local fire departments in both counties as well as the Department of Forestry. Kevin Kreitman, Linn County Fire Defense Board chief, reminded residents that violating the ban could result in significant financial liability.

“If someone goes ahead under the ban and has a backyard burn, and that fire escapes,” Kreitman said, “then he or she could be liable for extinguishment costs as well as property damage.”

Escaped debris burns are one of the leading causes of wildfires in Oregon. In a typical scenario, a homeowner starts a backyard burn, then leaves it for a few minutes to watch TV or take a phone call. In the meantime, it spreads to adjacent vegetation. Such fires often destroy homes and other property as well as damaging the forest.

Mike Totey, assistant district forester of the department’s West Oregon District, said the burn ban extension will continue until fire danger declines significantly.

“All the fire chiefs are in concurrence that we shouldn’t set an end date but rather lift the ban only when the rains have set in,” Totey said.