Fire Danger Rises, Malheur Firefighters Tackle Small Fires

blue_mountain_eagle | July 18, 2013 4:06 a.m. | Updated: July 18, 2013 11:06 a.m.

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Blue Mountain Eagle

JOHN DAY – As crews responded to several small wildfires, the Malheur National Forest on Thursday bumped up the fire danger rating from moderate to high.

The fires followed thunderstorm activity Tuesday night.

Crews on the Prairie City Ranger District were on the scene of two fires Thursday. Two 20-person crews were at a 6-acre fire in the Monument Rock Wilderness, where access and rugged terrain posed challenges. The second fire, about four miles southeast of the Trout Farm Campground, was estimated at about 1/4 acre.

Blue Mountain Ranger District fire crews were working three small fires near Deerhorn Campground on the Middle Fork of the John Day River, off County Road 20. The fires range in size from 1/10th of an acre to 2.5 acres. The latter is staffed and crews are working on lining it.

The smaller fires are either contained or lined.

With the increased fire risk, Forest Service officials reminded the public about rules affecting forest uses.

Campfires are allowed only in fire pits surrounded by dirt, rock, or commercial rings that are located in areas not conducive to rapid fire spread. At a minimum clear an area of flammable material within a radius of 5 feet from the edge of the pit and make sure overhead area is free of overhanging material. Use existing pits wherever possible.

In addition:

• Campfires must be attended at all times, and completely extinguished prior to leaving.

• Persons with campfires are required to have an ax, shovel, and at least 1 gallon of water or a fire extinguisher in their possession, except when located in designated recreation sites. A list of designated recreation sites can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/malheur or by visiting any Malheur National Forest office.

• Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled gas are allowed; wood burning stoves equipped with a chimney that is at least five (5) feet in length with a spark-arresting screen are also allowed.

• Use of charcoal briquettes is permitted within the clearing requirements outlined above.

Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles or buildings, designated recreation sites, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable material.

The public is cautioned to make sure that if they build a campfire while visiting the Forest, to please make sure their fire is dead out before leaving. Unattended campfires are likely to escape a fire ring or fire pit and sparks are likely to start fires in dry grass and needles.

The forest continues on Industrial Fire Precaution Level II, which went into effect July 15.

Also known as partial hootowl, this means:

Personal Use Firewood cutting is permitted with a valid permit, but only from 8 p.m. until 1 p.m.

Chainsaws may be operated only between 8 p.m. and 1 p.m. A one-hour fire watch is required after saw operations cease. Saw operators are required to have an ax, shovel and fire extinguisher (minimum of an ABC 8 oz.) in their possession.

For Industrial Woodcutting activities:

IFPL Level II means that the use of any power saws (except at loading sites), cable yarding, blasting and welding or cutting of metal may occur only between 8 p.m. and 1 p.m.

Read more on bluemountaineagle.com.

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