Fire Weather – The County Scene – Susan Morgan

We are continuing an unusually dry weather cycle this spring. Almost non-existant snowpack in the mountains, and less than normal rainfall everywhere else, has left us high and dry in mid-May this year. Adding in weather systems that combined high temperatures, wind and lightning, things are dry on the ground.

These conditions quickly got the attention of the folks at fire departments across the county, Fire District 2, and the Douglas Forest Protective Association (DFPA). These professionals look at the world a little differently. Right now, they are seeing very dry fuels and unstable weather systems that can quickly create big fires.

Whether casting an eye to your backyard burn pile, or monitoring moisture levels in the trees and grasses in our forests, all fire protection is gearing up right now. In a more normal year, it would be mid-July before we experienced the low moisture content of
fuels that we are seeing right now.

We have heard stories about backyard burn piles that got away. DFPA has already fought, and controlled, a major forest land fire this spring.

Statistically speaking, about half of all wild fires are caused by lightning, and half are caused by people. The wild fires caused by lightning are hard to predict, but the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and DFPA have a successful world-class system to find them and put them out quickly. Putting fires out while they are small is the single most effective tactic to avoid the cost, degradation and waste of big forest fires.

It is the people-caused fires that can be prevented. Whether it’s your backyard BBQ coals, mowing your field, or recreating in our forest land, please be vigilant. Please remember that target shooting (or any time metal strikes rock), or a warming fire, is
dangerous in these dry conditions. It may not be apparent immediately, but winds will fan embers and ignite fuels that can quickly spread when conditions are right for it.

It’s best not to start a fire. But, if you do, or see smoke, call it in to 911 immediately. Whether you are in an urban, agricultural or forest environment, a coordinated, experienced, and very brave response team will be there soon to size up the situation and get to work putting the fire out. That’s your tax dollars at work.

Commissioners’ Town Hall meetings this week in Riddle on 5/18 at 6pm at the Community Center; and in Glide on 5/19 at 5:30 at the Community Center. Hope to see you there!

Susan always welcomes your questions or comments. Please contact her by email at morgan@co.douglas.or.us; by mail at Douglas County Courthouse, Room 217, 1036 SE Douglas, Roseburg, 97470; or by phone at 440-4201.

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