Northeast Oregon is feeling the summer heat, and local forests have started phasing in guidelines meant to minimize the risk of human-caused wildfires.

Both the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests have implemented Phase A public use restrictions, which regulate campfires, smoking, off-road travel and chainsaw use.

A similar set of restrictions, known as regulated use closures, have also been set on the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Northeast Oregon District, covering more than 2 million acres of private, state, county, municipal and tribal forestland. The district formally entered fire season on June 26.

So far this year, the Blue Mountain Interagency Dispatch Center in La Grande has reported 26 fires burning roughly 87 acres, including 18 lighting-caused fires and eight human-caused fires. Fire danger is moderate to high across the region, as lighter grasses become dried out at lower elevations.

In order to keep people from accidentally starting needless wildfires, the Forest Service enacts public use restrictions that dictate certain activities on national forest land. Phase A restrictions include:

• No off-road or off-trail vehicle travel in areas not cleared of standing grass or other flammable material.

• Smoking is allowed only in enclosed vehicles, buildings or cleared areas.

• Chainsaw use is not allowed between 1-8 p.m. Operators need to stick around for one hour after work is completed to watch for fires, and must have an ax, shovel and fire extinguisher on hand.

Seasonal campfire restrictions also remain in effect on the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests through Oct. 31. That means:

• Campfires are allowed only in pits surrounded by dirt, rock and commercial rings, in areas cleared of flammable material within a 3-foot radius.

• Campers must attend to fires at all times, and have a shovel and one gallon of water in their possession.

• Fires must be dead out prior to leaving.

ODF has its own set of restrictions that go into effect Wednesday on the Northeast Oregon District. Known as regulated use closures, the rules ban all open fires except in designated state parks, such as Emigrant Springs, Ukiah-Dale, Catherine Creek, Hilgard Junction, Red Bridge, Wallowa Lake, Minam Lake and Unity Lake.

Like the Forest Service’s public use restrictions, regulated use closures also ban smoking except in vehicles or cleared areas, and prohibit non-industrial chainsaw use between 1-8 p.m. The same goes for cutting, grinding or welding metal, and mowing dried grass with power-driven equipment.

Other rules during fire season include:

• Burning debris is prohibited except in burn barrels with a valid burning permit.

• Exploding targets and tracer ammunition are not allowed.

• Sky lanterns are prohibited year-round.

Regulated use closures in the Northeast Oregon District affect ODF-protected land primarily in Umatilla, Union, Baker and Wallowa counties, as well as small portions of Morrow, Malheur and Grant counties.


Contact George Plaven at or 541-966-0825.

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