By Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Benton, Linn & Polk Counties
It is never really too early to think about fire season. With fire season comes rules and regulations that affect both the general public and forest landowners. Nearly everyone is affected by some, such as rules for basic fire tools to be carried when driving on forest roads during regulated use as reported last summer.
If you operate during fire season, then there are other specific rules regarding fire prevention and preparedness that will apply to you. These roles address water supply and fire equipment, fire watch and preventative actions and steps that are meant to prevent wildfire and protect landowners from fire damage, injury and fire cost liability.
ODF foresters regularly visit operations to check on fire rules compliance. Deficiencies typically lead to warnings, but if left unaddressed, may lead to citations, fines and in rare cases may leave landowners liable for all fire suppression costs.
I recently saw results for the ODF West Oregon District (predominantly in Lincoln, Benton and Polk Counties) of 132 compliance inspections of active operations in 2013. The good news is that 79% passed. But there were fairly big differences between the results on Industrial lands, Federal lands and nonindustrial lands. Let’s just say that operators on family forest lands are not leading the class, with just 69% passing. That means that nearly a third of operations on family forestlands were not up to snuff. Critical deficiencies revealed include inadequate pumps, too little water and not enough fire hose and inadequate maintenance.
Note that the small landowner numbers represent two groups: those who are doing their own operation, so need to have their own fire equipment on site, and those who hire an operator and so are depending on that operator to keep them in compliance. From what I understand, neither group is making the Dean’s list.
As a whole, you could call it a passing grade I guess… a D+. But that is not the kind of grade we want to see on our kids’ report cards, nor does it represent the level of preparedness we would like to see in the small woodlands community. It is important to try to improve that situation.
Look for other articles on this topic soon, and watch for workshops in Benton and Polk Counties in early summer.