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Fire danger is up: tips for staying safe and responsible

Fire danger is up: tips for staying safe and responsible

Fire danger is up in the Pacific Northwest, along with nice weather and predicted warm temperatures, and the Oregon Department of Forestry is urging people celebrating Memorial Day weekend to be careful with fire.

AAA reports that about 485,000 Oregonians plan to travel over the Memorial Day weekend, a big increase from 2020.

It’s time for everyone to put their Smokey hat on,” said Oregon Department of Forestry’s Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “The continued drought and unseasonably warm weather in parts of our state, we’re facing could lead to unintentional wildfires.”

Fields says that ODF firefighters have already been busy this year with 267 fires burning over 1,900 acres, more than twice the 10-year average for number of fires. Fire crews on patrol have also extinguished about a dozen abandoned campfires.

Campfires are of particular concern. A few tips:

  • Know before you go: Before going camping, always contact the forest district, agency or landowner first to learn if there are any current campfire restrictions where you plan to be.

  • Have water and fire tools on site: Bring a shovel and a bucket of water to extinguish any escaped embers. When you are ready to leave, drown all embers with water, stir the coals, and drown again. Repeat these steps until the fire is DEAD out. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.

  • Select the right spot: Where campfires are allowed, choose a site with an existing fire ring or fire pit, optimally in an established campground. If you choose to build a campfire, avoid building it near your tent, structures, vehicles, shrubs or trees, and be aware of low-hanging branches overhead. Clear the site down to bare soil, at least five feet on all sides, and circle it with rocks. Store unused firewood a good distance from the fire.

  • Keep your campfire small. Attend your campfire at all times. Portable camp stoves are a safer option to campfires at any time of year.

  • Burn ONLY local wood: Hauling your firewood to a remote campground can potentially transport invasive species. Instead, buy it where you’ll burn it or gather wood on site where permitted. State regulations prohibit the open burning of any other material that creates dense, toxic smoke or noxious odors. 

Escaped campfires can be costly. While citations and fines may apply, the biggest potential cost for an escaped campfire is firefighting costs. These can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars or more.

The bottom line, fire danger is up. Be mindful in your use of it.