JOHN DAY – New seasonal campfire regulations go into effect June 1, ahead of the declared fire season, on the Malheur, Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests.
Forest officials say that beginning June 1, forest visitors who build campfires must do so within a fire pit surrounded by dirt, rock, or commercial rings, in areas cleared of all flammable material within a five-foot radius from the edge of the pit and free of overhanging material.
These requirements also apply to the use of charcoal briquettes.
Officials stressed the new regulation doesn’t prohibit the use of campfires, which is a traditional part of the camping experience, but designates proper conditions for safe campfires.
The June 1 date for campfire safety regulations in dispersed and developed campsites is meant to encourage campfire safety before fire season comes full swing. Fire season usually is declared about July 1, although it was moved up to June 14 last year due to dry conditions.
Brian Goff, Umatilla fire management officer, said the intent of the regulation is to allow campfires while promoting safe techniques “that, in the long run, will protect lives, property, and our natural landscapes.”
“We live in an area where the summers are hot and dry. There’s a long history of wildfire in the Blue Mountains, and we don’t expect that to change.”
Although lightning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in this area, human-caused wildfires can occur anywhere and are preventable.
The new campfire requirements will continue in effect through Oct. 31, unless more restrictive measures are warranted. During times of high or extreme fire danger, forests will implement additional public use restrictions that can further restrict the use of campfires, chainsaws, smoking, and travel.
Those restrictions are implemented in phases, depending on fire danger, weather conditions and public safety concerns.
“Preventing wildfires is our ultimate goal,” said Roy Walker, Malheur fire management officer.
Forest officials also recommend the following precautions:
• Always abide by local campfire laws.
• Only adults should build and maintain campfires.
• Find a shady spot away from dry logs, branches, bushes, needles, or leaves.
• Make sure there are no overhanging tree branches near the fire.
• Use existing fire-rings where it is safe to do so. Don’t build fire-rings in roads.
• Keep campfire rings small and use wood no bigger than the ring.
• Keep tents and other burnable materials away from the fire.
• Never leave a campfire unattended. Those leaving campfires unattended can be billed for the cost of fire suppression.
• Drown the campfire with water and stir charred material.
• When leaving, make sure your fire is DEAD OUT. Very carefully feel all sticks and charred remains. Make sure no roots are smoldering. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
Find more campfire safety information at www.smokeybear.com/campfire-safety.asp.