A field fire across from Balm Grove Loop on Gales Creek Road on Tuesday, August 18. Photo: Ricci Oberg
OREGON – Citing imminent wildfire threats, Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on Wednesday afternoon for the entire state of Oregon, a move that allows the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Oregon Office of the State Fire Marshal — under direction from the the Oregon Office of Emergency Management — to tap into resources, equipment, and personnel from other state agencies.
Wildfires are burning across the state, some sparked by lightning strikes from dry thunderstorms, and many caused by human activity.
The state may also utilize firefighting resources from the Oregon National Guard as needed to cover shortfalls under an agreement between the state and the Guard.
“The wildfire season has escalated in Oregon this summer, and fire crews are working in extreme temperatures to keep homes and resources safe during this pandemic,” Brown said. “Given drought conditions and hotter than usual temperatures, Oregonians should be prepared for an intense wildfire season this summer. I’m committed to making state resources available to ensure crews have the resources they need on the ground and across the state. I urge the public to use extreme caution and be mindful of fire restrictions to protect the beauty and bounty of our state.”
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The specific legal code Brown called upon in making the declaration is ORS 401.165.
Locally, a number of fires in the region have been kept to a relatively small size; according to Oregon Department of Forestry Forest Grove District Forester Mike Cafferata, a fire between Vernonia and Stub Stewart State Park was eventually contained at three acres on Sunday.
Tuesday saw a field fire in Gales Creek near the Gales Creek Road and Balm Grove Loop intersection that was contained, according to eyewitness reports from this reporter, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, and community members, through the quick actions and skilled tractor work of local Gales Creek residents Eldon and Tyler Jossi.
“Another farm worker brought in another piece of equipment with a disc on it. He drove around the perimeter of the burned area with the disc, about an acre in size, and let the fire burn itself out,” Forest Grove Fire & Rescue said in a Facebook post. “This all occurred before fire crews arrived, only to find a very small area smoldering.”
A water tender from the Banks Fire District made sure any remaining hot spots from the fire — caused by farm equipment striking a rock — were out.
Earlier this month, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue put out a series of tips to reduce the chance of fires:
1. Limit your outdoor power tool use to only the early morning hours, when the dew is still up. This means get your mowing and weed eating done early, and to not do any cutting or welding outside in the heat of the day.
2. Soak those old burn piles one more time! This is so important, as old burn piles are one of our biggest cause of summer wildfires.
3. Only have campfires in designated spaces, this is especially important if you are exploring the forests west of here.
4. Pick up any broken glass around your property – believe it or not – even little pieces of broken glass can create a fire if the sun hits it just right.
5. Do not park on grassy areas, as your vehicle’s exhaust parts can remain hot enough to catch grass on fire even after you shut your engine off.
6. Do not block gates if you do head out and look for fun and adventure in the woods.
7. Watch where you target shoot, do not shoot into stumps or logs right now, and give the entire area a thorough look after you’re done to make sure nothing has flared up. Exploding targets shouldn’t be used right now.
8. Be ready, think about your fire escape plan if you live with the woods in your backyard. What would you take with you, and how quickly could you get to it, if an evacuation order came right now?
Visit the online state map of fire restrictions and allowed activities at https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/PFR.html.
For those who work in the logging industry or in other forestry-related activities, visit https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/ifpl.html for industrial fire restrictions.