S’more season is officially back on at a growing number of national forests across the state.
Mount Hood National Forest, one of the most heavily used regions near the Portland metro area, announced today it is lifting all fire restrictions. That means you can once again set a wood-burning blaze at your campsite for cooking and warmth starting Thursday, Sept. 23.
The agency says it is ending the burn ban thanks to a weekend of heavy rain, along with more forecasted showers and a general cooling trend as we head into fall.
Chain saw use east of Highways 26 and 35 is also permitted now that fire danger levels in that area have been downgraded, but there is a woodcutting window between 8 pm and 1 pm in order to minimize wildfire risk.
The Mount Hood National Forest joins several others in the decision to allow campers to set fires; including the Willamette National Forest in the Central Cascade Range, the Siuslaw National Forest, which stretches from the edge of the Willamette Valley to the Pacific Ocean; Eastern Oregon’s Malheur National Forest; and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southern Washington. However, you should check each agency’s website for up-to-date and detailed information regarding burn regulations. For instance, in Malheur, campfires are only authorized in designated recreation sites, whereas in Siuslaw, they can be ignited at developed campgrounds and sand camps and when dispersed camping.
Strict fire rules went into effect throughout most of the state in June, brought about by a hazardous trifecta: a drier-than-average spring, a record-busting heat wave, and preexisting drought conditions.
The Oregon Department of Forestry ended up banning all campfires in state parks and state-managed forests east of Interstate 5. Online recreational groups noted throughout the summer that the restrictions appeared to lead to a rising number of reservation cancellations and no-shows at state parks, since sleeping under the stars without a robust heat source isn’t universally appealing.
But as restrictions ease and campers proceed with their toasted marshmallow traditions, fire officials want to stress that visitors continue to be careful with any possible ignition sources. The vegetation remains dry due to drought conditions and extremely high temperatures this summer.
Always have plenty of water and a shovel on hand when maintaining a campfire, and make sure the site is cool to the touch before leaving it unattended.