BAKER CITY – With recent hot, dry weather increasing fire danger in Eastern Oregon, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has implemented Phase A of the Public Use Restrictions (PURs) to limit the chance of human-caused wildfire ignitions. These restrictions, which focus on smoking, off-road travel, and chainsaw use, went into effect today at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time and will remain in place until further notice.
Phase A is the first level of wildfire-prevention restrictions, generally implemented when the fire danger is moderate to high. PURs are phased in as conditions warrant and may differ from forest to forest. Restrictions under Phase A include:
· Chainsaws may be operated only between the hours of 8 p.m. and 1 p.m. local time. A one-hour fire watch is required after saw operations cease. Saw operators are required to have an axe (minimum 2 lb. head, 26” length), shovel (8” wide, 26” length), and fire extinguisher (minimum ABC 8 oz.) in their possession at all times. (Chainsaw operation associated with commercial and personal-use firewood permits are regulated under the conditions of the permit and are not impacted by this PUR.)
· Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles, buildings, or cleared areas.
· Vehicle travel is allowed only on roads and trails that are clear of standing grass or other flammable material. Off-road or off-trail vehicle travel is not allowed, nor is vehicle travel on National Forest roads where access has been impeded or blocked by earthen berm, logs, boulders, barrier, barricade, or gate, or as otherwise identified in a Fire Order.
The public is also encouraged to be very careful with campfires when recreating in dispersed and developed campsites. Forest officials recommend the following campfire safety precautions:
· Campfires should be in fire pits surrounded by dirt, rock, or commercial rings and in areas not conducive to rapid fire spread. All flammable material shall be cleared within a 3-foot radius from the edge of the pit and free of overhanging material. Use existing pits wherever possible.
· Campfires must be attended at all times, and completely extinguished prior to leaving.
· Anyone with a campfire should have a tool that can serve as a shovel and at least one gallon of water, so they will be prepared to completely extinguish the campfire.
The public’s awareness of the increasing fire danger and cooperation is essential to a safe fire season. Recreationists, firewood cutters, hunters, and other forest users can all help by closely adhering to restrictions, operating safely and cautiously, and keeping up-to-date on the latest orders and regulations.
Regulated closures may be in effect on State and private lands protected by Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) in northeast Oregon. For more information, contact your local ODF office or visit the Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center website at http://www.bmidc.org.
Additionally, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest has made fire lookouts accessible to staff only for the 2020 season. This is being done to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus for both visitors and lookout staff, who are critical to wildfire detection and response.
Normally, Wallowa-Whitman lookout staff are able to welcome forest visitors when not otherwise engaged with fire detection duties. Touring lookouts provides an opportunity for visitors to learn about the historic and vital work performed by lookouts, who maintain vigil over the Blue, Wallowa, and Seven Devils Mountains to quickly report the first signs of a wildfire. Lookout staff look forward to welcoming visitors once again in future seasons.
This closure applies to all six staffed lookouts on the forest:
· Mt. Ireland Lookout
· Summit Point Lookout
· Table Rock Lookout
· Harl Butte Lookout
· Hat Point Lookout
· Heavens Gate Lookout