All of the Oregon Department of Forestry’s protection districts have terminated fire season restrictions. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

With temperatures cooling and widespread rain, all Oregon Department of Forestry protection districts have terminated fire season restrictions.

So far in 2023, the agency reports that there have been 975 fires on ODF-protected lands resulting in 17,968 acres burned. On three occasions, an ODF Type 1 Incident Management Team was deployed this season — once to the Golden Fire in the Klamath-Lake District and twice to the Tyee Ridge Complex in the Douglas Forest Protective Association district.

Statewide to date, regardless of jurisdiction, there have been 1,909 fires that have burned 190,507 acres, ODF reports.

“This year, I would say was the year of partnership,” said Mike Shaw, ODF Protection Division chief. “We had several opportunities this year to help our local, state and federal partners keep Oregon safe from wildfire and vice versa.”

Philomath is located in ODF’s West Oregon Forest Protection District.

ODF and association firefighters responded to nearly the same number of fires this year as the 10-year average, but kept the acres burned at approximately 16% of the 10-year average, which was 119,526 acres burned. ODF said that’s due to the agency’s aggressive approach to the initial attack to preserve natural resources, protect communities and increase firefighter safety, as well as investments of additional staffing and aircraft resources from the 2021 Legislature.

Overall, the department put out 94% of fires at 10 acres or fewer this year. 

The start and end of fire season restrictions and regulations are set by each forest protection district based on the conditions in their area including drought, climatic forecasts and season trends. These restrictions and regulations of activities prone to start wildfires, such as debris burning and certain equipment use, are intended as preventative measures during times with elevated wildfire risks.

The arrival of steady, soaking rain coupled with cooler temperatures and shorter days usually triggers the closure of fire season. The end of fire season removes ODF-imposed fire restrictions on those protected lands. However, many structural fire departments in Oregon still require a permit for debris and slash burning. Philomath Fire and Rescue opened backyard burn season Oct. 10 and has permit information available on its website.

As Oregon transitions out of fire season, ODF districts across the state are shifting their attention to wildfire prevention and mitigation efforts. Clearing vegetation, creating defensible space around homes and safely burning debris piles are a few ways ODF is working with local landowners, members of the public and fellow fire response agencies to mitigate wildfire risk.