The fire in Bend last month is an indicator that Central Oregon is poised for another active wildfire season. That is confirmed in the April 1 National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook provided by the National Interagency Fire Center.
The Center reports that, “Climate outlooks indicate warmer and drier than normal conditions are likely for much of the Plains and Intermountain West through spring into early summer continuing and exacerbating drought there … Central Oregon and central and southeast Washington are likely to have above normal significant fire potential beginning in June ...”
The fire in Bend last month is an indicator that Central Oregon is poised for another active wildfire season. That is confirmed in the April 1 National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook provided by the National Interagency Fire Center. The Center reports that, “Climate outlooks indicate warmer and drier than normal conditions are likely for much of the Plains and Intermountain West through spring into early summer continuing and exacerbating drought there … Central Oregon and central and southeast Washington are likely to have above normal significant fire potential beginning in June ...”
The Bull Springs Fire which broke out west of Bend on Sunday, March 28, serves as a stark reminder that debris burning can create danger of local residents.

The blaze was reported late Sunday afternoon burning in slash, ponderosa pine, juniper, and brush. The wind-driven fire grew quickly, burning 211 acres before fire fighters were able to stop the spread. Two outbuildings were destroyed by the fire, and nearly 200 residences were placed in a Level 3 (GO) evacuation that evening.

Coordination between Bend Fire Department, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon Department of Forestry, and federal resources from Central Oregon Fire Management Service were the key to catching this fire Sunday evening and protecting structures and homes in the fire area. Aided by dozers from Taylor Northwest, fire crews were able to get line around the fire’s perimeter and focus on spot fires outside the fire line.

The cause of the fire has been determined to be a rekindled debris burn.

The Oregon Department of Forestry notes that heat can hold in burn piles and even under soil for many weeks with no visible smoke. With limited recent moisture in Central Oregon, vegetation and wildland fuels are very dry, making them susceptible to ignition and rapid fire spread, especially on windy days.

Residents are reminded to check burn piles and burn areas from any debris burning completed this winter or spring to ensure there is no residual heat or fire.

Below are some tips to reduce the risk of a fire getting out of control:

• Check weather forecasts. Avoid burning on windy days or when wind is forecast to be erratic or increasing.

• Check with local fire department and county restrictions to be certain burning is allowed and what restrictions should be followed.

• Never leave a fire unattended. Be certain the fire is completely out prior to leaving.

• Have a water source and shovel available while burning.

• Keep debris piles small. Add material gradually as the pile burns down.

• Ensure burned piles are cold prior to adding new material for future burning.

• Contact 911 immediately if the fire gets out of control.

The Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District has implemented an online burn monitoring program to help keep track of burning operations and to be prepared for incidents such as last month’s fire.

Visit www.sistersfire.com/outdoor-burning-regulations/ to access the program.

1. Create your own account on the publicfiresafety.com website or app.

You will be registering your contact information with the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District. Be aware the district will be using e-mail and text messaging to communicate, and normal rates will apply.

2. Create a burn day report for each day you plan to burn.

Let the Fire District know where and when you plan to burn, and agree to the terms and conditions for each burn. Fire District staff will be able to provide advice before and during your burn.

3. Check your mobile phone at least hourly during your outdoor burns.

Fire District staff will be monitoring conditions throughout each day; critical changes in conditions — such as stiffening winds — may trigger emergency updates calling for quick action on your burn.

Check local regulations before burning. The City of Sisters does not allow yard debris burning at any time during the year within their jurisdiction, and certain homeowner’s associations may have further restrictions in place. Staff will continue to monitor weather and fuel moisture conditions in the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District and may make modifications on a day-to-day basis. If conditions become drier, individual agencies may choose to close local burning.