In the community, Local government

Fire restrictions and countywide burn ban go into effect

A surprisingly wet spring combined with high mid-summer temperatures means fire restrictions will be enacted starting Friday in Malheur County. 

The Vale District of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, in collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, is imposing a ban on certain fires. The restrictions are consistent with local agencies such as Oregon State Parks, Rural Fire Districts, and private lands in the county under the jurisdiction of the Malheur County Sherriff’s Office.

The restrictions prohibit wood or charcoal fires for campers on public lands. Smoking is prohibited outside a vehicle, camp trailer, or building, except within areas free of vegetation for at least six feet in diameter, or on a boat.

Vehicles must stay on designated, maintained roads while restrictions are in place. All-terrain vehicles and side-by-side utility terrain vehicles must have a functional spark arrestor.

These fire restrictions go into effect the same day as a countywide burn ban is imposed on all non-permitted burns. This ban prohibits all open burning and burn barrels. Agricultural burns are allowed with a permit and guidelines outlined by the Ontario Fire Department.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility to fight fire,” said Al Crouch, Vale BLM fire mitigation specialist. “Every summer we get to a point where we evaluate the conditions and decide to change the restrictions.”

Since May 27, fireworks, tracer and incendiary ammunition, and exploding or metal targets have been prohibited on public lands.

The prohibitions of certain activities are based on their likeliness to cause fire, a history of starting fires in the past, and current conditions of fire fuel sources.

Fire restrictions were implemented much earlier during last year’s heat wave, and BLM said that further restrictions are always a possibility as fire season develops. Regional firefighting agencies use fuel analysis, predictive services, weather services, and drought condition analysis to deliberate on wildfire risk and fire restrictions.

“It’s not always about fighting fire, it’s about preventing fire. The safest fire is the one that never happens,” said Crouch.  

View full details of the countywide burn ban HERE, and the fire restrictions on public lands HERE.