Dry conditions create wildfire hazard


Yard cleanup advised

According to the calendar, spring has arrived in Oregon. But east of the Cascades, new green growth hasn’t fully covered the landscape yet, and that poses a wildfire hazard.

As winter-killed vegetation dries out, it becomes a potential fuel bed for unwary forest recreationists and rural residents.

Wildfire forecasters often refer to this transition period as the “early fire season” in Central and Eastern Oregon. The dead grass carried over from winter is quickly drying out and hasn’t been replaced by new growth. With a little wind, it can burn readily.

A yard cleanup is a good idea, if done safely. A major cause of wildfires during the spring is backyard debris burning. As homeowners prune trees, trim shrubs and mow lawns — all recommended actions to reduce the vulnerability of one’s house and property to fire — the yard waste tends to build up.

Consider chipping or recycling. But if burning this material is the only practical option, follow the basic safety precautions recommended by the Keep Oregon Green Association, http://keeporegongreen.org/, under “Wildfire Prevention.”

Check before you burn

Before you burn yard waste, be sure to check whether burning is allowed. Contact the nearest Oregon Department of Forestry or rural fire department office for current burning rules.

Forest recreation safety

These mild spring days and cool nights may not feel like the setting for a wildfire. But a heat source, such as an off-road vehicle exhaust, campfire or discarded cigarette, can ignite dead vegetation.

The Keep Oregon Green site also lists camping and off-roading safety tips that can make that early season outing both safe and enjoyable.