Fire season past normal cut-off, but end may be near

Sean C. Morgan

The end is near for fire season, but some regulations remain in effect on lowland forests and wildlands.

Fire season is still in effect, and so are public use restrictions, said Neil Miller, forest protection supervisor with the Oregon Department of Forestry Sweet Home Unit.

As of Thursday, Oct. 15, the traditional end of fire season, restrictions on burning for commercial agriculture have been lifted, Miller said, but backyard and debris burning restrictions remained in effect.

Fire danger was moderate, and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level was at Level 1, he said. Still, timber companies were remaining cautious.

The official end to fire season remains indefinite, Miller said, although the fire crew has been dwindling as firefighters return to school.

The end of fire season could come by the end of this week, he said. Though some rain fell over the weekend, fire officials were not expecting a season-ending rain event.

“It does look like we have some more moisture,” Miller said. Fire season depends on climatic conditions, but the daily burn window is getting shorter. That’s the period during the day when conditions can cause fires to get more active and create issues controlling them.

An east wind event can change everything, drying out the fuels and prolonging fire season, Miller said. Sweet Home hasn’t experienced much east wind this year, although it is typical in October toward the end of fire season.

As of Thursday, the Sweet Home Unit had responded to 104 incidents this year, Miller said. The majority of those were nuisances and backyard burning. Officials have cited a few people, who have or will be required to make court appearances.

The number of “stat fires,” those requiring fire officials to take action to control them, is up a little this year, Miller said. As of Thursday, the Sweet Home Unit had responded to 18 state fires, which had burned close to 10 acres of wildland.

“It’s been a little bit more active than years past,” Miller said. Regulated use started early, on June 23, because weather was so dry. It usually starts around the Fourth of July. For the first time in its history, the annual Fire School at the end of June could not run live fire exercises this year for new firefighters.

Restrictions on the National Forest have been lifted, Miller said, and fires are allowed in metal rings in the Quartzville Corridor on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands. Fires are also allowed in rings in designated campgrounds.

To find out if burning is allowed, call (541) 451-1904. For more information, call the Sweet Home Unit at (541) 367-6108.