Visiting your Central Oregon public lands will be different this summer and early fall until we get significant precipitation

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Shane JeffriesIt's no surprise to anyone that we're in a drought. Of course, this means that visiting your Central Oregon public lands will be different this summer and early fall until we get significant precipitation.

We are already in public use restrictions, where campfires are only allowed in designated campgrounds, and we have increased Industrial Fire Precautions, where the use of chainsaws for firewood cutting is limited. We do not take these actions lightly.

We know that these restrictions will certainly change your experience of the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River National Grassland this summer. But we are hopeful that these measures, and any further restrictions that follow, will help minimize human-caused fires so we can all enjoy a beautiful forest for decades to come.

Our firefighters have already been busy responding to and containing multiple new fires—and this fire year is far from over. As of July 4, firefighters have responded to 54 lightning-caused starts for 1,334 acres on U.S. Forest Service managed lands and BLM managed lands. They have also responded to 112 human-caused starts for 312 acres.

While the acreage from human-caused starts is relatively low compared to the acreage burned by lighting-caused wildfires, you will note that the human-caused starts account for more than double the lighting starts. We have been seeing this trend in the past several years and are continuing to spend a significant amount of time on fire prevention outreach into our Central Oregon communities.

We work together with municipal fire departments, county emergency managers and the state to emphasize the importance of fire prevention in protecting our communities and keeping our beloved public lands green. We all know that we need to bring additional water to drown campfires every time we leave them, and yet ever year, our firefighters pick up dozens of abandoned or escaped campfires. Just a few years ago we had a 1,500-acre fire that was ignited by a carelessly tossed cigarette (Milepost 6).

Every year we have roadside fires ignited by dragging trailer chains. This is the time of year that we need to take a few extra minutes to plan for trips to the forest and grassland. Part of that planning will ensure that you have 10-20 gallons of water to properly extinguish campfires. Never litter your cigarettes on the ground, instead extinguish them in a vehicle or camper. Take a minute to ensure that all trailer chains are secure.

In the coming weeks and months as hot and dry conditions persist, all of the little things we can do every day to prevent fires will make a big difference to our firefighters who put themselves at risk and to the long-term safety and security of our communities.

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