LA GRANDE — Oregon Department of Forestry in a press release announced it is declaring fire season for its Northeast Oregon District effective 12:01 a.m., Wednesday, July 1.

While wetter conditions were prevalent throughout the spring across much of the Northeast Oregon District, according to the press release, the weather is changing to a typical summer pattern of warmer and drier conditions, prompting fire managers to announce the beginning of fire season on the private lands under the department’s protection.

“The fuel conditions will change rapidly with these summer weather conditions,” Joe Hessel, district forester, said in the press release. “In some areas, we have an abundance of light and flashy fuels. These fuels will dry out quickly with the hotter and drier weather. These flashy fuels will often carry fire rapidly when they have dried out.”

The Oregon Department of Forestry also stated declaring the start of fire season is a move to reduce the number of human-caused fires this summer. The declaration places fire prevention restrictions on landowners and the public. Additionally, fire prevention regulations on industrial logging and forest management activities are put into place.

“This year, debris burning is prohibited from the beginning of fire season.,” Hessel said in the release. “We normally restrict debris burning a month or so into fire season, depending on conditions. This change is an effort to mitigate COVID-19 exposure potential for the public and our firefighters. We also want to be sensitive to negative smoke impacts for our vulnerable populations, and reduce the resource commitments typically associated with escaped fires.”

Meteorologist Joe Solomon of the National Weather Services in Pendleton said the grasslands rather than timber lands could be the bigger concern when it comes to wildfires. Fires in timber lands usually kick up starting in early July, Solomon said, but more cool and wet weather is on the way and could create a delay.

“Depending how much perception we get of this weather pattern, that could really knock down the fire potential going forward for the next week or two,” he said.

The Predictive Services of the National Interagency Fire Center, Boise, in its June 1 report of the potential outlook for wildland fires reported the Northwest had an above normal significant large fire potential starting in June in southwestern Oregon and expanded it to include all but the northwestern quarter of the region in July. That above normal designation, according to the outlook, will persist into September before the seasonal transition begins.

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