The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for much of Central and Northeast Oregon. Forecasters say high temperatures, low humidity, and gusty winds raise the fire risk throughout the region.
As firefighters in Malheur County battle a number of fires sparked by lightning, worries of increased fire danger in Central Oregon are growing as well.
The state Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon District is tightening restrictions on certain activities in the forest, like the use of chainsaws.
District Forester George Ponte says roughly half the fires in the district occur naturally through lightning strikes.
“But we do have fires from fireworks and smokers and escaped campfires and all that. And so these restrictions that we’re putting on are our attempt to reduce the frequencies of these types of fires,” Ponte said.
Meanwhile, a bill that would free up an additional $3 million for rapid response to new fires is headed to the desk of Governor John Kitzhaber. Ponte says that means the department could soon have greater access to resources like air tankers and helicopters to put out fires while they’re still small.