PRINEVILLE, Ore. — Wildfire season will begin June 1 in Central Oregon, 10 days earlier than last year, according to the state Department of Forestry.
ODF’s Central Oregon District includes 2.3 million acres of private, state and municipal forestland in Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jefferson, Lake, Morrow, Umatilla, Wasco and Wheeler counties.
The start of wildfire season is accompanied by restrictions aimed at preventing human-caused blazes. Smoking is not allowed while working or traveling in the forests. Tracer ammunition and exploding targets are also prohibited.
Open burning in the district requires a permit during fire season. Landowners who burned earlier in the spring should check their piles to make sure there is no heat or flames that could rekindle a fire.
Campfires are still allowed, though campers should never leave fires unattended and make sure they are dead out before leaving the area.
“When the district enters fire season, it highlights the change of wildland fuel and weather patterns,” said Rob Pentzer, acting district forester. “It is an indicator to our landowners, operators and the public that we are trending toward warm, dry weather and we need to change our actions to reduce any potential starts and prevent fires when we can.”
More than 95% of Oregon is in some stage of drought as of May 28, including moderate to extreme drought in parts of Central Oregon, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor.
ODF already declared fire season in southwest Oregon on May 1, the earliest start for that district since 1988.
Forecasts by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho call for increased potential of large wildfires across southwest Oregon in June and gradually spreading across the Northwest into August.
Christie Shaw, a spokeswoman for the ODF Central Oregon District, said firefighters have responded to 13 human-caused fires and three lightning fires so far in 2020. The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center in Portland reports a total of 138 human-caused wildfires in Oregon so far in 2020, along with nine lightning-sparked fires, burning a combined 2,432 acres.
Enhanced restrictions are also in place district-wide for industrial loggers. Industrial Fire Precaution Level 1 is in effect for Wasco and Hood River counties. All forest operations should have appropriate fire equipment on hand — including spark arresters on chainsaws, mufflers and water trucks — and complete a fire watch after cutting.