Quick response holds Hancock fire at 11 acres

With the weather changing to a typical pattern of warm, drier conditions, Oregon Department of Forestry-Northeast Oregon District has initiated fire season in the region

LA GRANDE — While wetter conditions were prevalent throughout the spring across much of the Oregon Department of Forestry-Northeast Oregon District, the weather is changing to a typical summer pattern of warmer and drier conditions.

The expected trend of fuel conditions in the region has prompted fire managers to announce the beginning of fire season on private lands protected by the ODF, which include private, state, county, municipal and tribal lands in Union, Baker, Wallowa and Umatilla counties, along with small portions of Malheur, Morrow and Grant counties within the Northeast Oregon Forest Protection District. This area encompasses approximately 2 million protected acres.

District official said the declaration is initiated in an effort to reduce the number of human-caused fires this summer.

“The fuel conditions will change rapidly with these summer weather conditions. In some areas, we have an abundance of light and flashy fuels. These fuels will dry out quickly with the hotter and drier weather. These flashy fuels will often carry fire rapidly when they have dried out,” said Joe Hessel, district forester.

Fire season began at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, July 1, for forest and rangelands protected by the ODF Northeast Oregon District. The fire season declaration places fire-prevention restrictions on landowners and the public. Additionally, fire-prevention regulations on industrial logging and forest management activities are put into place.

“This year, debris burning is prohibited from the beginning of fire season. We normally restrict debris burning a month or so into fire season, depending on conditions,” Hessel said. “This change is an effort to mitigate COVID-19 exposure potential for the public and our firefighters. We also want to be sensitive to negative smoke impacts for our vulnerable populations, and reduce the resource commitments typically associated with escaped fires.”

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