SWEET HOME — After extended periods of 90-degree-plus temperatures and a dearth of rain since May, area timber lands are tinder-dry, prompting forest managers to ban all fires along the Quartzville Corridor and in wilderness areas on the Willamette and Deschutes national forests.
The weather and fire danger has also led to Cascade Timber Consulting, based in Sweet Home, to close its more than 140,000 acres of forestlands to the general public.
As of Thursday afternoon, campfires were still being allowed in metal fire pits in certain campgrounds on the Willamette National Forest. To learn which campgrounds allow campfires, visit www.fs.usda.gov/willamette.
“The dispersed metal rings along the Quartzville Corridor starting at milepost 17.2 are no longer able to have wood-based campfires,” said Neil Miller, wildland fire supervisor for the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Sweet Home Unit.
Miller said liquefied fuel cooking stoves are still allowed.
Miller said the Oregon Department of Forestry has initiated a “high” fire danger for the general public and an Industrial Fire Precaution Level 3 for logging companies and others.
Miller said that the Linn County Parks Department’s Quartzville Group Camp site near Trout Creek has also banned wood-based campfires as well.
“We haven’t found any abandoned campfires on our properties, but forest deputies have found some on Forest Service ground,” Miller said. “There were two calls for abandoned campfires in last month and both were near Moose Creek on Forest Service ground.”
Miller said the general public is “really on edge” about fire dangers.
“We are getting a lot of calls of about people using weed eaters or mowing their lawns at the wrong time of day,” Miller said.
Miller said that in addition to hot, dry weather, the mid-valley weather forecast includes the possibility of thunder and lightning in portions of the Cascades.
“It could be fairly isolated along the Cascades,” Miller said. “The last strikes were got were in June.”
Mid-valley temperatures are expected to cool down a bit over the weekend with a projected high of 81 on Friday, 77 on Saturday and 86 on Sunday.
But temperatures will spike upward again on Monday, topping out at 95, 93 on Tuesday and 92 on Wednesday.
Humidity is expected to remain extremely low.
Fire restrictions put into place on the Willamette National Forest on July 20 remain in effect, according to Deputy Forest Supervisor Holly Jewkes, but effective immediately all campfires in wilderness areas are banned.
“Unfortunately, despite earlier restrictions, we continue to see illegal and abandoned fires,” Jewkes said. “Given the abundance of wildfire activity, the relative shortage of resources, and the increasingly hot and dry weather, we are going a step further and ban the use of campfires in wilderness areas.”
The campfire ban includes all land within the wilderness boundaries on both the Willamette and the Deschutes National Forest.
Campfires are allowed in metal or concrete fire rings in the designated campgrounds. Use of charcoal briquettes is prohibited, but camp stoves that run on propane or liquid fuels and have an on/off switch are allowed.
Smoking is not allowed, except within an enclosed vehicle or building, or a developed recreation site. Generators are permitted only in areas devoid of vegetation, such as a paved area or developed campsite.
Motorized vehicles may operate only on designated trails and roads. Santiam and Huckleberry OHV areas remain open but riders are cautioned to park in areas devoid of vegetation for 10 feet around any vehicle.
A campfire and open flame ban remains in effect for all Oregon State Park campgrounds, and day-use areas. On Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Forestry lands, fires are only permitted in designated campgrounds.
Of the 107 large active fires burning in the United States, 15 are in Oregon.