SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — It may have been raining on Tuesday, but staff at the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) say it won’t be enough to bring us up to where we need to be this time of year. The dry season has them concerned. And some ODF representatives say sometimes the cold weather and just a little bit of rain can make folks complacent when it comes to fire prevention, but with fires just now being mopped up in Coos and Curry County, they wanted to make sure folks realized they can happen anytime.
ODF says don’t let the cool weather fool you.
Wildland Fire Supervisor Brian Dally says, “With the freezing temperatures and lack of rain, a lot of the forest fuels have been freeze dried. So, with the freezing temperatures on exposed ridges, we actually have the moisture driven out the forest fuels.”
And ODF says that is just part of its concern. 2013 is the driest year on record for the area. Right now, we’re sitting at nearly 25 inches below the average rainfall.
“The concern is looking toward the spring and summer months that we’re going to continue to see that drying trend,” says Dally.
Last spring, ODF saw three large fires, two of which were traced back to escaped debris burns.
“We didn’t receive the precipitation that is normal. And so even though we weren’t in a closed fire season and backyard burning was allowed. People weren’t as vigilant as they maybe should have been,” says Dally.
And that is why they’re asking folks to be extra aware when burning. They need to make sure that fire is completely out, because it’s possible the fires will burn underground in root systems and pop back up months later. That said, residents play a key role in protecting themselves and their surroundings.
Dally says, “Prevention starts at home we believe and fire prevention knows no season.”
Both ODF and the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) say people should contact them and their local fire district before starting any new burns. Also, people should always attend to your fire and have water and a shovel available to make sure the fire is out when you’re done with it.