News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Smoldering burn piles ignite small fire

A neighbor in the Crossroads subdivision a few miles west of Sisters noticed smoke rising from debris near a house on Graham Court last Sunday morning. As the fire began to consume a fence, he reported the fire to Tim Craig, deputy chief of Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District.

Two fire trucks and a smaller emergency vehicle could be seen at the site, along with at least four personnel. They subdued the fire with apparent ease.

“In this case I wasn’t worried about evacuating the neighborhood or anything; there wasn’t a wind up — but that’s not to say a small fire can’t take out one or two houses,” said Craig.

“Make sure that you’re not complacent,” he told The Nugget. “Just because we had a really good fire season and didn’t see any significant starts in the area doesn’t mean that we’re completely safe. We always need to be fire-wise and fire-smart.”

Craig described the fire as “escaped burn piles that were lit legally, with a permit,” three days before. Due to air stagnation, burning was not legal over the weekend and at least through Tuesday.

The property-owner thought the fires were completely out, according to Craig, “but unfortunately they weren’t. They crept through the duff—the light understory, biomass, burnable materials that are lying across the ground—until they got to the pine needles.

“Ultimately it got into a larger pile of needles, pine cones, and flammable materials. It started burning the fence and scorched a couple of trees,” Craig continued.

He noted that burn regulations require that the ground surrounding a burn pile must be “scratched down to mineral soil,” to prevent these sorts of fires.

“Central Oregon is always at risk and always at threat,” Craig said. “Just about any time of year in Central Oregon we really are dry. Keep your mindset in a preparatory manner. You should always have an evacuation kit, always be prepared.”

He also suggested hauling off pine needles and debris rather than burning them.

Residents of Sisters Country should possess “a good understanding of how fires burn in the wildland-urban interface,” Craig said, “and an understanding that as long as we don’t have snow on the ground, there is always the possibility that fires can start. If fuels are in direct contact with homes or with buildings on your property, that can be of concern.”

More information can be found at The Nugget regularly publishes articles that help readers make sense of fire regulations, safety, and preparedness. In the upcoming months, look for several stories describing small, easy steps that residents can take during the cooler seasons to prepare for summer.


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