As Malheur County continues to sizzle under an unnaturally early heat wave, area officials plan to implement a countywide burn ban Thursday.

The dry conditions also prompted the Vale District of the Bureau of Land Management to expand fire restrictions on public lands beginning Thursday.

Additionally, the National Weather Service in Boise announced Wednesday that a Red Flag Warning would be in effect Thursday from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. MDT for most of Malheur County. Abundant lightning and outflow winds up to 40 mph are expected to develop late in the afternoon. 

The burn ban, which wasn’t implemented until August 1 last year, prohibits open burning and the use of burn barrels throughout all of Malheur County. It will be in place indefinitely.

Agricultural burning will only be allowed with a permit issued by the local fire department and under strict guidelines. 

While the heat and drought have prompted Portland and other cities across Oregon to ban the use of fireworks, Ontario Fire Chief Terry Leighton said there are no plans to ban them in Malheur County. 

Fireworks that “fly in the air, explode or behave in an uncontrolled and unpredictable manner,” are illegal in Oregon unless a permit has been obtained. 

The Vale District BLM’s expanded fire restrictions ban campfires, including those in metal ring fire pits, as well as charcoal grills, wood-fired stoves and smokers, on all public lands, campgrounds and recreation sites administered by the Vale District BLM.

The use of fireworks and exploding or metal targets on public lands has been prohibited since May 12. 

“We need the public’s help in preventing the next human-caused fire. We urge everyone to implement fire safe practices immediately, especially during the current heat wave,” said Al Crouch, the BLM’s fire mitigation and education specialist, in a written statement.

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.

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