News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Fire season opens in Canyon, statewide

The 2022 wildfire season is underway, with the Oregon Department of Forestry declaring Monday that all of its districts are in fire mode.

The final two districts to declare were the North Cascade district, which includes the Santiam Canyon, and the Northwest Oregon district in the Tillamook-Astoria area.

North Cascade opened July 8, with the Northwest Oregon season being declared July 11. The Southwest Oregon district was the first to declare on June 1. In drier years the declarations can come in May and June. 

Compared with previous years, this is a slightly delayed start to the season for the state, said Mike Shaw, the ODF’s fire protection division chief. The heavy rains in May and June of this year have helped in that. However, the ODF urges Oregonians to remain vigilant in preventing human-caused wildfires. 

“Don’t be lulled into complacency because of the weather,” said Shaw. “July and August historically have higher fire activity, and ODF is ready to respond, but we need the cooperation of Oregonians so we don’t strain our resources on fires that could have been avoided.”

A large concern for the agency are the ground fuels, such as grass, that grew tall due to the spring rains but will dry out quickly, becoming a greater risk for human-caused fires. Those ground fuels will be able to catch fire easily and will then burn and spread quickly. 

Districts decide when to start the fire season based on fuel conditions, fire behavior, long-term weather forecasts, and fire activity in the area.  Activities prohibited during fire season, regardless of the fire danger level, include the use of exploding targets and tracer ammunition and backyard debris burning, including in burn barrels. 

A full description of all fire season restrictions is available at Counties and local fire departments may have additional restrictions in place. Residents are urged to check restrictions in their local areas.

Additionally, workers in forest operations are prohibited from smoking in operation areas and from blasting without a permit. Key wildfire prevention actions recommended by ODF officials include:

• Make sure your campfire is cool to the touch before going to sleep or leaving your site. Don’t forget to drown, stir and repeat.

• Go back and check on your debris burn site to make sure nothing reignites due to the heat.

• Don’t park your car over dried grass and make sure it is regularly maintained in order to reduce the risk of sparks.

• Don’t flick a cigarette onto the ground. It may be just enough to start a grass fire.

ODF protects more than 16 million acres of private, county, state, and federal land from wildfire. The fire season ends around the end of October. 

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