Continued dry forest conditions and warm weather have prompted the Oregon Department of Forestry and local fire districts to extend the current prohibition on open burning in Linn, Benton, Polk and Lincoln counties. Burning of yard waste and other debris in piles or burn barrels will not be permitted until the ban is lifted.
Normally, regulations on burning put in place by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to prevent smoke-related health problems during the summer months expire Oct. 1. But the current ban on burning initiated by the Department of Forestry and the fire districts within the four counties will continue until regular fall rains have set in and lowered fire danger.
"We're still warm and dry," unit forester Kevin Crowell said. "The rain awhile ago gave us a bit of a reprieve, but it has dried back out, and we still have east winds and continued dry fuels to contend with."
Characteristic of late summer and early fall, dry easterly winds can rapidly dry out forest fuels even after a soaking rain. They can also rekindle a debris burn or other fire that has not been completely extinguished days or even weeks later.
This fire season to date, 779 human-caused wildfires have occurred on the 16 million acres of forestland protected by the Department of Forestry, well above the 10-year average of 632 fires.
In western Oregon, current fire activity attests that conditions in the forest are still very dry.
"We had two South Fork Forest Camp inmate crews out on a fire southwest of Mary's Peak," West Oregon assistant district forester Mike Totey said. "And we also had firefighters on a fire along the Siletz River -- both human caused."
Crowell said a human-caused blaze north of Sweet Home was a close call. Aggressive response by fire crews prevented it from spreading rapidly in the dry grass and brush.
While local and state firefighters have succeeded this season in stopping most fires at small size, he urged residents to continue to be careful with fire this fall.
"The Department of Forestry and the local fire districts have spent a lot of money this year chasing down fires from escaped debris burns," he said. "We are asking people to please be patient during this extended burn ban. It is drier out there than it appears."