Extreme Fire Danger Brings Emergency Warning

posted by Brad Ford - 

To prevent further forest fires while supporting areas affected by summer blazes, Oregon Office of Emergency Management is teaming up with other state agencies to raise awareness of fire prevention.  

Human caused wildfires burned 228,000 acres in 2017. The Oregon Department of Forestry has responded to 30 human-caused fires in the past week alone; one burned over 20,000 acres. Causes include vehicles (faulty exhaust systems, overheating), illegal abandoned campfires, target shooting, and illegal debris burning.  

“Eliminating human-caused wildfires helps all Oregonians,” said Peter Daugherty, State Forester, Oregon Department of Forestry.  “Preventing even one wildfire allows firefighting resources to concentrate on the lightning-caused wildfires we can’t prevent, and minimizes public and firefighter risk.”

The bottom line, says Daugherty, is to use utmost care on a daily basis to prevent adding new fires to the landscape, especially during extreme conditions with a long way to go before the end of fire season. 

OEM has compiled these tips, gleaned from fire-response agencies, to mitigate human-caused wildfires:

  1. Mow before 10 a.m., but never when it’s windy or excessively dry.
  2. Lawn mowers are designed to cut lawns, not weeks or dry grass. Metal blades striking rocks can create sparks and start fires
  3. Check Keep Oregon Green for current conditions and restrictions in your area, and always keep fire-fighting tools on hand.
  4. Wildfires sparked along roadways may be caused by traveling motorists: 
  • Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained, with nothing dragging on the ground.
  • Maintain proper tire pressure; riving on exposed wheel rims will throw sparks.
  • Properly maintain brakes; brakes worn too think may cause metal-to-metal contact which can cause a spark.
  • Practice safe towing. Check for dragging chains, use appropriate safety pins and hitch ball to secure chains.
  • Don’t drive your vehicle onto dry grass or brush; hot exhaust pipes and mufflers can start fires you won’t even see until it’s too late.
  • Carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and learn how to use it.

You should also create a defensible space around your home and remove dead trees to reduce wildfire risk.

“Preventing wildfires is every Oregonian’s responsibility, and there has rarely been a more critical time to do your best to keep wildfire from occurring,” said OEM Director Andrew Phelps. “Common everyday activities such as mowing the lawn or pulling your vehicle off to the side of the road may start a wildfire in these dry conditions.”

This year, wildland fires have had significant impact on many rural communities, as well as local businesses who rely on welcoming and serving vacationing Oregonians and guests from around the world during Oregon's summer season.

As the fires and smoke subside, all Oregonians can support local businesses by visiting fire-impacted areas for vacations this year,” said Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson. “Not only will we have the world-class experiences we cherish, we'll have the added pleasure of knowing we're supporting the recovery of our fellow Oregonians.” 

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