JOHN DAY – Last week’s hot spell intensified the fire risk in the region, prompting the Oregon Department of Forestry to tighten restrictions.

The fire regs went into effect for the Central Oregon District at 6 a.m. Thursday, July 4, and apply to private and non-federal public forestlands in 12 counties including Harney, Morrow, Grant, Wheeler, Gilliam, Hood River, Wasco, Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson, along with small portions of Umatilla and Lake counties.

Assistant District Forester Tracy Wrolson said the hot weather was drying vegetation quickly, causing a dramatic increase in fire danger levels.

Wrolson said rains in late June delayed the onset of severe burning conditions, but the heat wave “erased those benefits.”

“Fine fuels like grass and brush will easily ignite now. People need to be extra careful when recreating or working in the forests,” Wrolson said.

The following activities are affected:

• Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads.

• Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except in designated areas. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed. Open fires are allowed if conducted in compliance with a valid Burning Permit issued pursuant to ORS 477.515.

• Chainsaw use is prohibited, between the hours of 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Chainsaw use is permitted at other times, if there is one ax, one shovel, and one 8-ounce or larger fire extinguisher for each saw. In addition, a fire watch is required at least one hour after saw use.

• Cutting, grinding and welding of metal are prohibited between 1 and 8 p.m. At all other times the area is to be cleared of flammable vegetation and operators must have one ax, one shovel, and one 2-1/2 pound or larger fire extinguisher in good working order.

• Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, is prohibited, except on improved roads and except for vehicle use by a landowner and employees of the landowner on their own land while conducting activities associated with their livelihood.

• Possession of the following firefighting equipment is required while traveling in a motorized vehicle, except on federal and state highways, county roads and driveways: one shovel and one gallon of water or one 2-1/2 pound or larger fire extinguisher, except all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles which must be equipped with an approved spark arrestor in good working condition.

• Mowing of dried grass with power equipment is prohibited from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., except for commercial work on agricultural crops.

• Also prohibited: use of fireworks, release of sky lanterns, discharging of exploding targets or tracer ammunition, and blasting.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management’s Vale District also tightened up the rules last week, setting public use restrictions on Friday, July 5. That includes prohibitions on campfires, outdoor smoking, chainsaw operation, and driving off road.

The fire danger on the Malheur National Forest is listed as moderate, at Industrial Fire Precaution Level I.

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