ODF ends regulated use restrictions early

The rainfall that moved into the Willamette Valley last week prompted the Oregon Department of Forestry Sweet Home Unit to lift regulated use restrictions on local protected forestlands early Friday morning.

Measurable rain started falling Friday night and continued throughout the weekend as forecasted.

Forestry officials expected an inch of rain, said Unit Forester Ed Keith Thursday afternoon. “We’ll see, but it’ll definitely be significant.”

During regulated use, campfires are prohibited outside of designated campgrounds and fire rings along the Quartzville Corridor. The use of all-terrain vehicles, chainsaws, mowing and similar activities is also restricted.

Campfires should still have adequate clearing and tools available, Keith said. “Deep down it’s still going to be dry. While it’s burning, make sure you’re there and then make sure it’s completely out before you leave.”

A recent fire that destroyed about 170 homes near Boulder, Colo., started from an abandoned campfire, Keith said.

While regulated use is no longer in effect, fire season and the burn ban continue. Loggers are still required to have fire-suppression tools on site.

“We don’t expect fire to do much, but there’s still a chance fires could spread,” Keith said.

This week through next month, officials are looking for drying, with east winds typical in late September and early October.

Even though the rain over the weekend was substantial, Keith said that the fire danger remains. Dry weather will dry everything out quickly.

It’s still a little early to end fire season, Keith said. The fire crew will stay on through the end of fire season, although a few members have gone back to school, and a few more go back this week.

This much rain already does mean the end of the season could happen earlier, Keith said. Oct. 15 is the default date to end the season, and officials usually call the end in mid-October.

Sometimes it lasts into November, Keith said. The last time it ended in September in the Sweet Home area was in 1997.

Fire season this year has been slower than usual, with 15 blazes, about half the number of fires the unit usually has, he said. The busiest time was following a lightning storm on Aug. 17. Firefighters were busy for about a week afterward.

Overall on protected lands, including private and Bureau of Land Management forests, slightly less than an acre burned this year, Keith said. The U.S. Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger District had probably a couple of acres of fires.

The biggest problem right now is debris burning, Keith said. Just because it rained does not mean the burn ban is lifted.

For information about fire season and regulations, contact the Sweet Home Unit at (541) 367-6108.