SALEM, Ore. – The adage April showers bring May flowers is being tested this spring. And while the unseasonably dry weather is pulling Oregonians outside, it’s also spurring firefighters into action.
2021 has already produced nearly three times the average number of fires to date — many of which resulting from escaped backyard debris burn piles. As of today (April 13), 70 fires have burned 402 acres on Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands, 40 of which came from debris burning that accounted for 154 acres. The 10-year average for all fires is 24 fires for 225 acres.

While fire season has not officially started, experts say to watch the conditions and not the calendar.

“Just because fire season has not been declared does not mean fire danger does not exist,” said ODF Fire Prevention Coordinator Tom Fields. “The window of opportunity to clean up around homes and dispose of woody debris in a safe manner is narrowing each year. Now is the time to reassess and wait for better conditions.”

Fields says that if burning is your choice of debris disposal, the window to burn this spring may already be closed and that it may be best to wait until late fall or winter to burn debris safely. When conditions warrant, follow these simple steps.

  • Place yard debris in an open area away from structures, trees and power lines.
  • Create small piles (4’ x 4’) to better manage the burn.
  • Cover portions of piles with polyethylene plastic (landscape material) to keep a portion dry for lighting later (preferably in late fall or winter).
  • When conditions improve, check with your local fire agency for any regulations in place.
  • Never burn under windy conditions.
  • To maintain containment, create a perimeter around the pile at a minimum of 3 feet, scraped clear to bare mineral soil.
  • Keep a shovel and charged hose nearby to manage the burn.
  • Make sure the pile is dead out before leaving.
  • Return periodically over several weeks to make sure the pile is still out: No heat, no smoke.

Stay informed by visiting local fire agency, protective association and ODF web pages as well as Keep Oregon Green and Office of the Oregon State Fire Marshal.