Environment, Fire, Gales Creek

Fire season, burn ban begins as triple-digit temperatures loom

The Oregon Department of Forestry stages a vehicle at the Gales Creek Fire Station on Tuesday, August 27 2019. Photo: Chas Hundley

A county-wide burn ban went into effect Tuesday morning at 7 a.m., putting a halt to all backyard, agricultural, slash, and other debris burning. Still allowed are small outdoor cooking or warming fires and barbecue grills or other cooking appliances. 

Those living within Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue’s boundaries, which includes parts of Roy and Mountaindale, were already under a burn ban which began June 18. 

For those living in and within ⅛ of a mile of Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in the Northwest Oregon Forest Protective Association (NWOFPA) region, fire season began at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning as well, which comes with a host of fire restrictions and other precautions defined by a series of public fire restrictions for the general public, and the Industrial Fire Precaution Levels system for industrial users of forestland, such as logging operations. 

The NWOFPA region includes much of the areas of Gales Creek, Buxton, Timber, Manning, and the Tillamook State Forest within its bounds. It stretches north to the Columbia River, west to the Pacific Ocean, south to Sheridan, and east to parts of Gales Creek, the Killin Wetlands outside of Banks and to Scappoose. In 2020, the region was placed into fire season July 1. 

A statement from Forest Grove Fire & Rescue warned that all outdoor fires in violation of the burn ban could be immediately extinguished.

Those who start a fire in violation of the ban could also be on the hook for legal and firefighting costs if a fire agency has to respond to extinguish a fire started or allowed to spread during the burn ban under the laws set forth in ORS 478.965.

The burn ban is the second enacted in Washington County this year, with a similar ban enacted on April 14 amid what fire officials described as “unseasonably high fire danger” due to high temperatures, wind, and low humidity.

The future holds more hot weather. According to the Portland office of the National Weather Service, temperatures could rise into highs in the triple digits and upper 90s in the upper Willamette Valley starting Saturday, June 27 through Monday, June 29. 

“We encourage everyone to use extreme caution with activities that could start a fire, whether it is at home or on vacation. It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent and be prepared for wildfires,” Forest Grove Fire & Rescue said in a statement. 

The Oregon Health Authority offered the following advice to stay cool during high temperatures:

– Stay somewhere air-conditioned

– Drink lots of fluids

– Limit exposure to the sun from 10am-4pm

– Wear loose-fitting clothing

– Avoid hot/heavy meals & alcohol or liquids containing large amounts of sugar

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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