05-18-2024  7:03 am   •   PDX and SEA Weather
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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 01 July 2021

PORTLAND, OR  — This week’s record-breaking heat wave is finally behind us, but the risk of wildfire isn’t. This is not the time to become complacent about the danger of sparking a human-caused fire, Forest Service fire officials warn.

“People ask all the time how they can help firefighters. One of the biggest ways is to help prevent the start of fires,” said Alex Robertson, Director of Fire, Fuels and Aviation for the Pacific Northwest Region and Alaska.

Sources for public use restrictions 

Weather experts forecast an elevated risk of severe fire throughout all of Oregon and in eastern Washington through this weekend.

Land managers base decisions regarding public use restrictions and seasonal burn bans on current conditions. Fire departments, county sheriff’s departments, and regional dispatch centers may be good sources to check for information about the current level of fire risk and current restrictions in their area. On National Forests in Washington and Oregon, public use restrictions are posted to the forest’s website.

Protecting National Forests and private land

Explosives and pyrotechnic devices, including fireworks and explosive targets, are prohibited on National Forests in Oregon and Washington at all times. Violators who bring fireworks onto national forests and grasslands can be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced with up to six months in jail (36 CFR 261.52). Anyone who starts a wildfire can be held liable by the government for suppression costs, and may be subject to civil liability for private property damage.

Fire knows no boundaries – so it’s important for community members and forest visitors to respect burn bans and other safety-related fire and public use restrictions for both public and privately-owned lands, and to familiarize themselves with fire prevention practices, Robertson said.

“We’ll never know the name of the fire we didn’t start. Small steps make a big difference,” he said.

Fire prevention tips for July 4th weekend:

  • Don’t start a fire unless you have the tools to put it out! Keep plenty of water and a shovel nearby. Never leave a fire burning unattended. Put out fires by dousing embers with water, stirring, and dousing again until the ashes are cool to the touch.
  • If your holiday plans include cooking outdoors, use a gas grill or have a plan to dispose of burned coals safely. Hot embers and charcoal can smolder for days, then reemerge as flames long after you’ve left.
  • When camping, check ahead to see if campfires are allowed at your locations and use metal fire rings where provided. Consider using a gas or liquid fuel stove that can be turned off when not in use instead of a charcoal grill or campfire.
  • Make sure your vehicle is in good repair before travelling. Hot weather can lead to tire blowouts and riding on rims creates sparks. If towing a camper, boat or trailer, ensure tow chains are elevated to prevent dragging across rocks or pavement - which can also create sparks. Avoid driving or parking over dry brush or grass; your vehicle’s undercarriage gets very hot and could ignite a fire.
  • Motorized equipment, including ATVs, and motorbikes and chainsaws, should be recently-serviced and have working spark-arrestors.
  • Lawnmower blades can create sparks if they strike rocks – make sure you clear your yard of debris before mowing. During extremely dry weather, limit use of mowers, tractors and chainsaws to the coolest hours of the day, and switch to lower-risk activities like pulling weeds and removing brush by hand and using a string-based trimmer to cut back tall grass.

Know before you go:

Find recreation area updates on following websites:

Willamette National Forest Alerts & Notices: https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/willamette/alerts-notices

Mt. Hood National Forest Notices: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/mthood/fire/?cid=fseprd835619

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Updates: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/crgnsa/recarea/?recid=30026

Central Oregon Fire Alerts: centraloregonfire.org

 For more information, visit the US Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region website at https://www.fs.usda.gov/r6

Nature's Firework Show from Pacific NW - U.S. Forest Service on Vimeo.

Above, A stop-motion video public service announcement inviting the public to enjoy nature's show on National Forests this Independence Day - and leave fireworks at home. The video was produced by Lily Carey, a field ranger on the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. (U.S. Forest Service)

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