As tens of thousands of people descend on Grant County, fire danger is a major concern.
Hot, dry conditions with little to no recent precipitation has left residents and officials on edge.
To minimize fire danger, visitors should obey all road closures and follow all fire restrictions, U.S. Forest Service Public Affairs Specialist Mike Stearly said. Campfires and chainsaw use is currently prohibited.
If people see a fire, Stearly urges them to call 911, or if out of cell service contact any nearby Forest Service personnel. If a person starts a small fire and has a blanket, shovel or fire extinguisher, Stearly said attempt to put the fire out. However, he urged people to not attack large fires.
In order to prevent fires, Stearly said people should not travel cross-country, not park on grass, should smoke inside or in an area of bare ground and should ensure there are no dragging chains on their vehicle. He also advocated for people to use generators responsibly, avoid creating sparks and above all be aware of their surroundings.
“Folks should leave their fireworks at home, as they are not permitted on the National Forest,” he said.
To address fire concerns, a National Interagency Wildfire Prevention and Education Team has been activated to assist with fire prevention awareness in the days before and during the upcoming solar eclipse. The team will be staffing information centers to provide critical fire prevention messages and visitor information. Several information boards will also be placed throughout the forest to provide key information, including maps and pertinent regulations, as well as fire prevention information.
“We anticipate that many individuals traveling to view the eclipse may not be aware of the current wildfire danger,” said April Phillips, Fire Prevention Team Leader.
Fire prevention tips
• Drive on established roads and avoid driving or parking on dry grass. Automobile exhaust systems can reach temperatures up to 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit, and pulling off to the side of the road can ignite surrounding vegetation.
• Ensure all parts of your vehicle are secure and not dragging. A loose safety chain or muffler striking a rock or pavement will send a shower of sparks into dry vegetation.
• Use a propane grill or backpack stove instead of a charcoal grill or campfire. Fire restrictions are in place in most of Oregon.
• Carry a shovel and fire extinguisher or gallon of water in your vehicle (required in some areas).
Due to extreme fire danger the following restrictions are now in place on the Malheur National Forest:
• No campfires. Liquid and bottle gas stoves only.
• No internal combustion engine operations except for motor vehicles. Operate generators only in areas bare of vegetation in a 10-foot diameter or in the bed of a pickup truck or installed in an RV with a 10-foot discharge area cleared of vegetation.
• Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles, buildings, developed recreation sites or cleared areas.
• No off-road or off-trail vehicle travel or travel on roads not cleared of flammable materials. Obey all road closures.