SWEET HOME — Fire danger has moved into the “high” level for the general public, and the Industrial Fire Protection Level has moved to Level II, according to Chad Calderwood of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Sweet Home Unit.
The Philomath Department of Forestry Unit remained at Level I as of Wednesday morning.
“Things are extremely dry and with temperatures forecast to be in the 90s over the next several days, they are going to get worse,” Calderwood said. “We are asking the public to be vigilant about fire safety and partnering with us to prevent fires.”
Calderwood said the Sweet Home Unit has staff and equipment assisting at wildland fires outside the area.
A Level II is called a “Partial Hootowl” fire danger level for industrial users such as logging companies. The following equipment can only be operated between the hours of 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.: power saws except at loading sites; cable yarding; blasting, welding or metal cutting.
No backyard burning is allowed. No open fires are allowed, either, except in designated campgrounds. Also, no fireworks and no mowing of dried grass between the hours of 1 and 8 p.m. Smoking is not allowed while traveling, except in closed vehicles on improved roads.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, when the fire danger is "high," fires can start easily from most causes, and small fuels (such as grasses and needles) will ignite readily. Unattended campfires and brush fires are likely to escape. Fires will spread easily, with some areas of high-intensity burning on slopes or concentrated fuels. Fires can become serious and difficult to control unless they are put out while still small.
Private timberland owners are also closing their lands to vehicles, said Milt Moran, president of Cascade Timber Consulting in Sweet Home.
“We’ve closed a bunch of our gates and aren’t allowing motor vehicle traffic,” he said. “For now, we’re still allowing people to walk in, but that may change as conditions worsen.”
Moran said fuel moistures are 20 to 30 days ahead of schedule in terms of dryness.
“It’s quite a concern for us,” Moran said.
He said local firefighters have quickly extinguished escaped debris burns and lightning strikes.
“Our local guys have gotten on them quickly,” he said.
Members of the general public should call individual private landowners if they wish to enter their properties.
“It would be wise to check,” he said.