Oregon Dept. of Forestry
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News Releases
Mid-Willamette Valley Interagency Wildland Fire School begins June 26 in Sweet Home - 06/23/17

Sweet Home, Ore.-- Over 200 wildland firefighters and instructors will convene in Sweet Home at the end of June to take part in the annual five day Mid-Willamette Valley Interagency Wildland Fire School. Officials from the U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are hosting the training to prepare new firefighters for the rigors of fighting fire, both in Oregon's forests and in rural-urban interface areas.

Co-Incident Commanders Shawn Sheldon, Deputy Fire Staff for the BLM and Willamette National Forest; and Craig Pettinger, Unit Forester for ODF in Sweet Home, see fire school as an opportunity to train firefighters in both tactical skills and safety.

"This is the 21st year we have collaborated for this. Fire School provides crucial education and training in wildland fire to new firefighters and gives career firefighters a chance to refresh their skills and explore leadership opportunities," said Sheldon.

Trainees will spend the first part of the week in a classroom setting. Classes include basic fire behavior, weather, map and compass use, teamwork, safety, use of engines, tools and hose lays, fighting fire in the rural-urban interface and fire investigation. Students will sleep in tents at Sweet Home High School and eat their meals communally, giving them a taste of life in a real fire camp.

The course culminates with a live fire exercise on June 30th just outside of Sweet Home. This will give trainees a final challenge: applying their newly acquired skills to suppress and mop-up a real fire.

"Cascade Timber Consulting, Inc., a local landowner, provides a new field site each year and we are very grateful," added Sheldon. "The live-fire exercise significantly enhances the students' training experience -- working in smoke, hiking through uneven terrain, and working closely with crew members to dig fireline, are all things they'll experience this season as wildland firefighters."

Safety principles of fire training include wearing protective gear, safe use of tools and being on the lookout for hazards. "Safety is paramount in every aspect of wildland firefighting, and it begins with our training exercises," explained Pettinger. "Working together in a training setting improves communications and builds effective relationships for the agencies to draw on during fire season."

This year, the field site that will be used for the live fire exercise is located approximately 5 miles east of Sweet Home adjacent to Highway 20. Fire officials are urging the public to use caution as there will be increased fire traffic in the area and the potential for visible smoke on Friday, June 30th. For more information, please contact Public Information Officers Joanie Schmidgall, (541) 367-3809, or Dawn Sleight, (503) 829-2216.
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Note to media: This opportunity offers access to both trainee and experienced firefighters as they prepare for the 2017 fire season. However, we require 24 hour notice of your intent to participate, as all media must be accompanied by an agency escort and have personal protective equipment. Personal protective equipment includes Nomex pants, long sleeve Nomex shirt, gloves, hard hat, and boots with vibram soles. Protective equipment (excluding leather boots) may be available for media to borrow. Please contact Joanie Schmidgall to make arrangements.

Hotter weather this weekend raises the risk of wildfire - 06/22/17

SALEM, Ore. -- While the southwest U.S. sizzles in a record-breaking heatwave, Oregon is also in store for elevated temperatures this weekend. Summer heat and dry landscapes increase the risk of wildfires. With some parts of the state already having declared fire season in effect, fire officials would like to remind all Oregonians to be aware of fire danger when working or recreating outdoors.

"Given the right conditions, a fire can start almost any time of year," says Oregon Department of Forestry Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. "And while we've been blessed with cool conditions thus far, fire activity is beginning to pick up as we head into the first weekend of summer."

More than 125 fires have burned 170 acres of forest and grasslands under ODF's protection in 2017. The lion's share (57 fires and 67 acres) have resulted from debris burning while another 14 were caused by people recreating (campfires, fireworks and target shooting).

If you're planning a camping trip this weekend, take extra steps to prevent a catastrophe.
* Keep your vehicle on good roads and don't idle over dry grass.
* Campgrounds are best for campfires. If campfires are allowed outside campgrounds, choose a location in a clear area away from grass, brush and overhanging trees.
* If campfires are allowed where you're heading, keep it contained and small by surrounding it with rocks. Have water and a shovel close by at all times. Put the fire completely out before leaving.

If instead, you're planning on cleaning up the property this weekend, think twice before burning yard debris. Chipping or taking to a recycling center may be safer options. Check with your local ODF/protective association office or fire department for current restrictions. If burning is allowed:
* Refrain from burning on windy days.
* Try to burn in the morning when conditions are moister.
* Keep burn piles small and manageable, feeding from larger piles.
* Scratch a wide fire trail down to mineral soil around the pile and have a shovel and charged garden hose at the ready.
* Never leave the pile unattended and put the fire completely out when finished.
Finally, go back over the next several weeks and double check the pile for heat and smoke. Burn piles can retain heat for several weeks and rekindle under warm, windy conditions.

For more information on fire restrictions and closures in your area, visit www.oregon.gov/odf/fire/restrictions or call your local ODF office.
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Field tours of South Fork, Browns Camp and Tillamook Forest Center highlight June 23 SFAC meeting - 06/16/17

A tour of the South Fork Forest Camp and the Tillamook Forest Center are the featured agenda items when the Oregon Department of Forestry's State Forests Advisory Committee meets in Forest Grove on Friday, June 23. The group will also visit Browns Camp, which provides Off-Highway Vehicle recreation facilities. The meeting will convene at 8 am at the Forest Grove office of the Oregon Department of Forestry, located at 801 Gales Creek Rd.

Other agenda items include a discussion of comments and responses to the Annual Operating Plan and issue updates from the ODF State Forests Division.

The State Forests Advisory Committee is comprised of timber, environmental and recreation group representatives. It serves as a forum to discuss issues and provide guidance to the Oregon Department of Forestry on the implementation of the Northwest Oregon State Forests Management plan. The plan covers the management of 616,000 acres of forestland within the Tillamook, Clatsop and Santiam state forests through a balanced approach to generating economic, environmental and social benefits.

For more information on the Oregon Department of Forestry, visit https://www.oregon.gov/ODF/Pages/index.aspx.


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Committee looking at controlled forest burning and air quality meets June 27 in central Oregon - 06/15/17

CORRECTION: Committee meets Tuesday, June 27

SISTERS, Ore.-- A broad-based committee formed by the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality will tour the site of controlled burns in the Deschutes National Forest before its public meeting in Sisters on Tuesday, June 27.

ODF Smoke Management Meteorology Manager Nick Yonker said committee members will get to see how managed fire is used to thin brush and reduce the risk of big wildfires. After the tour, the committee will meet to discuss air quality and human health, as well as the benefits of controlled burns to forest health, productivity and reducing wildfire risk.

The public is invited to attend the meeting and make comments. It will be held inside the Sisters Fire Hall at 301 Elm St. in Sisters. The meeting lasts from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. The meeting space is accessible to persons with disabilities. Requests for an interpreter for the hearing impaired or other accommodations for persons with disabilities should be made at least 48 hours before the meeting by contacting Chrystal Bader at 503-945-7220.

The Smoke Management Review Committee is charged with recommending improvements for how the state uses controlled burns to meet land management objectives on private and public forestland in Oregon while minimizing smoke impacts on communities and protecting public health.

The 20-person committee is made up of forest landowners, public health representatives, the American Lung Association, forest collaboratives and environmentalist groups, county and city elected officials, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and a tribal representative.

The committee is tasked with producing a set of recommendations for the departments of Forestry and Environmental Quality to consider. The committee's work will be presented to the Board of Forestry (BOF) and the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) in late 2017. Committee recommendations will also inform potential updates to the state's Smoke Management Plan. That plan is administered by ODF and approved by BOF and the EQC. The Smoke Management Plan becomes part of the state's plan for implementing the federal Clean Air Act.

According to ODF records, controlled fires were set last year on 181,800 forested acres in Oregon. This is above the 10-year annual average of 165,999 acres. Those fires burned an estimated 1.3 million tons of woody debris. Spring and fall are peak burning times.

Yonker said the committee will hold three more public meetings around the state through September. The committee's third meeting will be on July 27 at ODF headquarters in Salem.
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Burning ban starts June 15 in Linn, Benton and Marion counties - 06/15/17

A ban on all open and backyard burning will take effect on June 15 in Linn, Benton and Marion counties. The Oregon Department of Forestry and the fire defense boards of the three counties announced the ban, which aims to reduce the incidence of open debris burns escaping control. The restrictions will extend through Oct. 15 or later, depending on fire danger.

"We are seeing a lot of green-up occurring with the current weather patterns. This will cause heavy fuel loading for the grass models as temperatures rise and the fuels dry out," said John Bradner, Linn County Fire Defense Board Chief.

The open burning restrictions coincide with the current air-quality rules set forth by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Those rules already forbid open burning within three miles of cities over 1,000 in population and six miles from cities over 50,000 in population after June 15. These burn restrictions expand the geographical scope to include areas outside the three- and six-mile limit.

Along with this ban on residential burning, ODF encourages the public to have an increased awareness of wildfires and what they can do to help protect there own property. The work that a property owner does now keeping a defensible space around their property will make the difference between losing a home or structure, and keeping their valuable investment in tact during a wildfire event. ODF encourages property owners to explore other options during this burn ban. Options to burning include, chipping, recycling centers and composting are now available to the public year round.

Rural fire agencies and the Oregon Department of Forestry have the authority to enforce and regulate the burn ban. Under Oregon Revised Statute Chapter 477, the department may issue citations for violation of the burning restrictions.

For more information on the open burning restrictions as well as advice on safe debris disposal, contact the nearest Department of Forestry office or the local fire department.

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Four Oregon fire protection districts enter fire season - 06/07/17

SALEM, Ore. -- Four Oregon Department of Forestry fire protection districts in southern and central Oregon have entered fire season. Portions of the following counties are affected by fire prevention restrictions: Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Morrow, Umatilla, Wheeler and Wasco. ODF-protected lands covered by the declaration include state, private, county, city forestland, as well as Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forestlands in western Oregon.

Local fire protection managers in the Walker Range Fire Patrol Association in northern Klamath County, and ODF's Southwest Oregon, Klamath-Lake and Central Oregon districts declared fire season respectively on June 2, June 4, June 5 and June 7. Warm, dry conditions at the end of May and early June prompted the declarations.

Fire season restrictions in all four areas include season-long bans on several fire-prone activities. Among these are debris burning, and use of exploding targets and tracer ammunition. During declared fire seasons, industrial operators also must follow fire season regulations and have fire tools and equipment at forestland sites where they work.

As of June 5, 84 fires were reported on ODF-protected lands in Oregon. These burned just over 100 acres. More than 70 of those fires were caused by people. Three-fifths of the fires occurred in southern and central Oregon ODF districts.

After a wet, cool winter and spring in much of the state, there have been fewer fires to date statewide compared to the 10-year average for this time of year. One exception is ODF's Klamath-Lake District based in Klamath Falls. There, fire starts and acres burned so far this year exceed the 10-year average for this date. That is one reason Klamath-Lake District Forester Dennis Lee said the district was beginning fire season already at a "moderate" level of fire danger, one up from the lowest level.

Central Oregon experienced a drier spring than the rest of the state, leading to an earlier risk of fire than parts of the state that received heavy rain and snow. "In a large district like Central Oregon, the level of fire danger can vary from place to place depending on a lot of factors, such as elevation, northern or southern aspect and type of fuel," said District Forester Mike Shaw of ODF's Central Oregon District.

District Forester Dave Larson in ODF's Southwest Oregon District said rising temperatures and lower humidity are already drying out plant life in his part of the state. "We can't know exactly what a fire season may bring, but the last several years show summer poses a risk for significant wildfires in Jackson and Josephine counties."

Other ODF protection districts will declare fire season as conditions warrant. For the latest on specific restrictions in your area, check with your local ODF office or log onto www.oregon.gov/ODF/Fire/Pages/Restrictions.aspx.
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Fire near Florence burns 25 acres before being contained - 05/31/17

FLORENCE, Ore. --A fire that broke out on May 26 in western Lane County burned 25 acres before being reported contained over the weekend. The Hemlock Fire started in an area north of Honeyman State Park and south of Florence. The fire had been threatening homes but no structures were damaged.

The Hemlock Fire was responded to by ODF's Veneta Office in the Western Lane District, assisted by Coos Forest Protective Association, Siuslaw Valley Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and inmates from Shutter Creek Correctional Institute who have been trained as wildland firefighters. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

According to ODF records, there have been 57 fires statewide so far this year on the 16 million acres of land protected by the agency. The fires have burned just over 60 acres of ODF-protected land. The majority of these fires have been in southwest Oregon. Apart from six fires started by lightning, all the fires have been human caused.
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