Photo by Mark Gibson
Smoke turns the sun red above Mill Creek south of The Dalles. Dry weather is creating hazardous conditions throughout the Pacific Northwest.
As of Friday, August 17, 2018
There have been 200 abandoned campfires in the past several weeks within the Mt. Hood National Forest and a special team of fire prevention experts is now on the move to educate visitors about safety restrictions in place during hot and dry weather.
“Everybody needs to be aware of the dangers of wildfire, while still enjoying the many recreational benefits the national forest provides,” said Mark Wiles, leader of the Mt. Hood National Forest NW Area Fire Prevention Team.
“Our goal is to empower forest users with the knowledge that these restrictions are in place and there are consequences for ignoring them.”
Toward that end, the multi-agency team has made up fliers that were presented to people attending Dufur Vintage Days last weekend and other events in the area. In addition, they visit campgrounds and make appearances at sporting goods and grocery stores in communities on the flanks of the mountain.
“Everybody’s been very agreeable and glad to have the info,” said Susan Granbery, public information officer.
She and two other team members are from the Georgia Forestry Commission, a state agency. Others come from the Shasta Trinity National Forest in northern California. The teams also include professionals from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies.
The teams have been in place since the early 1990s and travel across the country educating people in areas with the potential for major wildfires.
“Dry fuel conditions in the forest are well ahead of historical trends,” said Dirk Shupe, assistant forest fire management officer for the Mt. Hood forest. “Some visitors think they can ignore the public use restrictions in place as weather changes and temperatures temporarily decrease. However, just one spark can ignite quickly and start a wildfire.”
The prevention team will be in the area until Aug. 21 when they fly home from their two-week deployment to resume their usual duties. Granbery said everyone is trained to also fight fires although they are not here in that capacity.
“Everywhere we’ve gone, people have been very receptive,” she said. “We are glad to have conversations about wildfire prevention. We want people to have fun in the forest but still be safe.”
Granbery is on her third team assignment and said the visit to Oregon has been very enjoyable. She said natural resources and human lives are both protected if people obey all fire restrictions in place until the fall rains come.
Rules for the Mt. Hood National Forest during times of fire danger include:
• Do not park on dry grass.
• Stay on designated roads. No off-road use.
• No target shooting on federal lands.
• No open campfires or flames.
• No smoking except in vehicles.
• No fireworks or explosives.
• No chainsaws.
• Wood and charcoal fires, charcoal grills and portable braziers are prohibited.
People can still use pressurized gas stoves and space heating devices that can be quickly turned off.
Portable lanterns using liquid petroleum fuels are also allowed.
Other alerts and warnings, plus information about sites to see on the mountain, can be found at fs.usda.gov/mthood.