Despite recent rains, officials decide to begin fire season

Fire season will begin at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, July 1, on the forests and rangelands in southern Linn County protected by Oregon Department of Forestry’s South Cascade district.

South Cascade joins ODF’s Western Lane and Northeast Oregon districts in entering fire season on July 1. Six other ODF districts in southern and central Oregon are already in a declared fire season.

A fire season declaration places fire prevention restrictions on landowners and the public on lands protected by ODF. Fire prevention regulations on industrial logging and forest management activities also go into effect. The restrictions are designed to reduce the number of human-caused fires at a time of year when wildfires are most likely to occur.

South Cascade District Forester Chris Cline said a mild, wet spring has contributed to a buildup of fine fuels in the district.

“The arrival of drier summer weather makes those fine fuels ignite more readily and spread fire faster,” said Cline. “As we enter into our extended dry conditions, we would ask people to be extra vigilant in fire prevention and awareness. It’s always important to prevent as many human-caused fires as possible. With the potential safety concerns related to COVID-19, this year it’s even more critical to relieve any unnecessary burdens that wildfire in our communities creates.”

Craig Pettinger, fire prevention officer at the ODF’s Sweet Home Unit office, said the recent rains caused some officials to question whether to declare fire season at this point.

“ It was a little bit of a struggle with whether they should or should not go in,” he said.

However, “we had a lot of landowners pushing us to go because of fireworks, etc.,” he added.

The use of fireworks is already prohibited in national parks and forests, on Bureau of Land Management lands, on U.S. Fish and Wildlife properties, on state beaches, in state parks, and in state campgrounds.

Oregon law prohibits the possession, use, or sale of any firework that flies into the air, explodes, or travels more than 12 feet horizontally on the ground, without a permit issued by the OSFM. Fireworks commonly called bottle rockets, Roman candles, and firecrackers are illegal in Oregon without a permit.

Officials may seize illegal fireworks and charge offenders with a class B misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to $2,500 per violation and a civil penalty of up to $500. Those who misuse fireworks or allow fireworks to cause damage are liable and may be required to pay fire suppression costs or other damage. Parents are also liable for fireworks damage caused by their children.

For the last reported five years through 2019, there were 1,173 reported fireworks-related fires in Oregon, resulting in more than $4.9 million in property loss and contents damage. During that same period, fires resulting from fireworks resulted in one death and 36 injuries. The data from structural fire agencies do not include incidents that occurred on federal and other state lands.

The fire season restrictions don’t stop people from doing things such as mowing dead grass, Pettinger said.

“They just limit the time of day people can do some things.”

Pettinger said he expects fire conditions to stay relatively stable until the weather heats up and vegetation starts drying out. He noted that backyard burning is off-limits.

For further information on fire season restrictions in the South Cascade District, call the ODF Sweet Home office at (541) 367-6108 and press 0.