ODF will move to extreme fire danger beginning Aug. 12 and restrictions on open fires will begin in Benton County. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Oregon Department of Forestry will move to extreme fire danger beginning Saturday in the region that includes Benton County, Philomath Fire and Rescue reported.

In conjunction with that designation, the Benton County Fire Defense Board will declare restrictions on all open fires with the exception of gas-fired barbecue grills. The restrictions include all recreational and cooking fires from open fire pits that use wood or charcoal.

“This is due to the anticipated heat dome that will arrive this weekend and last through the week,” Philomath Deputy Fire Chief Rich Saalsaa said. “We will follow ODF’s lead and keep these restrictions in place so long as the fire danger remains in the extreme range.”

Saalsaa said all current recreational fire permits issued within Philomath Fire and Rescue’s district are suspended until further notice. He said permit holders should be notified via email.

“The constant high temperatures and sustained drying winds in combination with low humidity levels contribute to this decision,” Saalsaa said.

In addition, industrial restrictions will be raised to Level 3. The restrictions include the use of mowing and power equipment.

Philomath Fire and Rescue maintains a website that provides information on fire danger levels and industrial restrictions. Or, the public can call the fire station at 541-360-0030.

Several fires are currently burning in the Willamette and Cascade regions with as many as six in the Linn and Lane counties. Saalsaa said personnel and equipment have been deployed from other fire agencies to help combat the fires, particularly the Wiley Fire southeast of Sweet Home.

“Part of the equation of restricting open fires is the drain on local resources,” Saalsaa said. “We are upping staffing as much as we can to provide for rapid deployment should a fire break out in our region.”

Saalsaa said several days next week will be declared as all-county response days, which means that at least one piece of apparatus from every fire agency in Benton County will be sent to an incident.

“This is to get a quick knock-down of the fire before it becomes harder to control,” he added. “Temperatures, time of day, wind and humidity are all factors in making the decision to enact an all-response day.”

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.