FIRE RESTRICTIONS: -Fire Season began June 7, 2017. Read about the restrictions.
MH1 and MH4 IFPL: -IFPL 3 as of July 14, 2017. Read about the restrictions.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Oregon Department of Forestry selects Mike Shaw as new Central Oregon District Forester


Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has selected Mike Shaw as the new District Forester for the Central Oregon District (COD).  Shaw replaces George Ponte who recently retired after more than seven years as District Forester and 26 years with the Department.  COD provides wildfire protection and administers the Forest Practices Act on approximately 2.2 million acres of private and non-federal public land throughout eleven counties in Oregon.  As District Forester, Shaw will manage 35 permanent employees and 90 seasonal firefighters in offices in Prineville, Sisters, The Dalles, John Day, and Fossil.
Shaw has been with ODF for sixteen years, starting as a Forest Practices Forester in the Toledo Unit of the West Oregon District.  He served in a similar position in Wallowa, prior to promoting to Unit Forester for the Wallowa Unit.  In December of 2014 Shaw left northeast Oregon to work as ODF’s Eastern Oregon Assistant Area Director.  Shaw’s prior experience in both Protection and Private Forests Divisions and in various locations within the agency will provide a good foundation as he assumes his leadership role in the Central Oregon District.  In addition to his experience in these positions Shaw has served on ODF’s Incident Management Team 1 as Situation Unit Leader and as Planning Section Chief.  Shaw is a graduate of Oregon State University, holding a bachelor’s degree in Forest Management.

The interview committee chose Mike Shaw from a pool of qualified candidates based on experience and answers to interview questions.  Candidates were interviewed by a panel of Central Oregon District employees and a diverse panel comprised of local stakeholders, agency cooperators, ODF administrators and Travis Medema, ODF’s Eastern Oregon Area Director.  “I am really looking forward to working with a great group of employees and furthering the mission of ODF in Central Oregon”, states Shaw.  “The past three fire seasons have been particularly challenging and I am excited for the opportunities these challenges may afford as we move into the future.”  Mike has made his home in central Oregon with his wife and children, where they are integrating into the community and exploring the area.  Shaw is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys skiing with his family during the winter.
George Ponte worked in various positions around the state prior to becoming the COD District Forester, he started his career in the Western Lane District.  Before working for ODF Ponte spent a couple fire seasons working for the Douglas Forest Protective Association (partner agency to ODF) and some time with the US Forest Service.  George held positions as Stewardship Forester, Unit Forester, and Assistant Area Director and in positions on ODF’s Incident Management Teams.  Since 1996 George and his wife Michelle, whom he met while working at Western Lane, have called central Oregon home.  Significant fire activity in central Oregon has kept Ponte busy for the last several years, this upcoming summer he is looking forward to watching thunderstorms from his deck with his wife without the worries of how many fires are starting.  However, he has assured COD employees that we will see him from time to time.

Oregon Department of Forestry partners with Ritter landowners


Ritter, Oregon…Folks in Ritter are used to facing the challenges of living in remote Oregon and finding unusual solutions.  Back in 2014 that is exactly what a group of landowners did, forming the Ritter Collaborative.  The collaborative focuses on enhancing land productivity and restoring the landscape.  Landowners formed the collaborative to improve the economics and efficiencies for on the ground work.  This unique collaborative is made up entirely of private landowners.  Landowners vary from working cattle operations, to residential homes, to recreational uses, with full time, part time, and seasonal residents.  The landowner’s passion for the land, and the desire to use science to determine projects across the landscape has united them.  
Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Committee for Family Forestlands supported the collaborative early on with the hope of modeling similar projects in other communities around the state.  ODF assisted the collaborative by helping landowners apply for grants, and now serves as the fiscal agent for a Model Watershed Cooperative Grant from the US Forest Service which provided funds to hire Curt Qual as the Ritter Collaborative Coordinator, through Oregon State University Extension Service.  As the coordinator Curt represents the Ritter Collaborative at a larger scale in efforts such as the John Day Basin Partnership which is part of the all lands approach being used on private and public forestlands across Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.  Qual also works with landowner members to help them gather and interpret information and engage additional landowners inside the collaborative area. 
The Ritter Collaborative has developed a Strategic Action Plan to help members prioritize projects across the landscape.  Landowners working cooperatively on projects such as aspen restoration, juniper removal, noxious weed control, and streamside enhancements are able to combine project work across landowners to get a better price from the contractor.  The Strategic Action Plan is designed to be dynamic to adjust to changes in the land.
Late this fall the collaborative partnered with ODF’s John Day Unit and Fossil Sub-Unit.  Firefighters from Fossil used collaborative project work to gain experience using a chainsaw, focusing on falling, limbing, and bucking trees.  Experienced firefighters were able to mentor firefighters who had limited experience using a saw.  Approximately 50 acres were treated for five different landowners.  One project focused on aspen restoration, removing juniper which had encroached and was competing with the aspen grove.  The remaining work was part of larger juniper removal projects to help landowners with their efforts.  Firefighters were available to respond to wildfires while they were working on the projects, but also gaining useful skills.  The Ritter Collaborative has provided funds to ODF’s John Day foresters to collect GPS and photo site monitoring to track the work as it occurs and to monitor the effects of the projects over the landscape.  This data will be provided to the collaborative for use in adapting the Strategic Action Plan.
For more information on the Ritter Collaborative and the partnerships they have developed contact Curt Qual, Ritter Collaborative Coordinator (541)575-1139.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Rain and cool weather brings end to fire season for private lands in Central Oregon


Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Central Oregon District is terminating fire season at 12:01 am Saturday, October 24, 2015.  Widespread rain across the district last weekend, combined with forecasted cool, moist weather patterns has brought an end to another long difficult fire season.  Oregon and the Pacific Northwest experienced the third historic fire season in a row with drought conditions across much of the landscape. 
Burn permits are required for all open burning.  Permits can be obtained from your local fire department or from the Department of Forestry.  Follow all instructions on the burn permit prior to ignition.  Ben Duda, Wildland Fire Suppression Specialist in Sisters emphasizes the need to call the local burn information line before you burn, explaining, “Debris burning may be closed on days with forecasted high winds or poor smoke management conditions, such as poor mixing or wind blowing smoke toward populated areas.  Since conditions change you really need to call daily.”  Contact your local ODF office if you have questions regarding burn restrictions.

The termination of fire season doesn’t mean there is no risk of fire or threat of fire spread.  Central Oregon has not experienced a widespread season ending rain event, however fire managers for the district believe the risk of large fire growth is low.  Managers encourage landowners to hold off burning until a significant rain event.  Practice fire safety and use caution in activities which could ignite a fire.  Never leave a campfire or warming fire unattended and be certain it is DEAD OUT! before you leave.  To fully extinguish a fire remember to douse the flames, stir, and douse again.
Regulations differ between land managers and landowners.  Determine any additional restrictions imposed by landowners prior to traveling into the woods. Contact your local US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management office for current restrictions on federal forest and rangeland.

Now is the time to begin preparations for next year’s fire season.  Technical advice for creating defensible space around your home and reducing hazardous fuels is available from local ODF offices.  ODF Stewardship Foresters can also provide guidance for landowners who have been affected by fire, including suggestions for reforesting and planting native plants to provide improved soil stability and water quality.
Central Oregon District local office contact information:
  • Sisters                                  (541) 549-2731
  • Prineville                             (541) 447-5658
  • John Day                             (541) 575-1139
  • The Dalles                             (541) 296-4626

Report uncontrolled fires to 911 or the local dispatch center. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Landowners use fire to clean-up after the Canyon Creek Complex Fire


Weary and wary…Residents in the John Day Valley have been living with fire for more than a month; smoke, loss, and fear have all affected the community, making “normal” seem unachievable.  Fall rains will eventually extinguish the interior fire within the Canyon Creek Complex Fire, but in the meantime some residents within the fire perimeter are working with the local Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Unit in John Day to remove hazards and clean-up fire damaged vegetation.  This is the first step for these landowners to move toward their new “normal”.  Fire may be used to burn debris piles from these activities.  Smoke and flames may be visible from these fires, however the public should not be concerned as piles are well within the black perimeter and have no chance for escape.  ODF personnel is working closely with landowners to ensure there is no risk of fire growth.
ODF’s Central Oregon District remains in fire season with a regulated closure in effect.  Open fires, including debris burns, warming and campfires are allowed by permit only.  Permits will only be issued inside the Canyon Creek Complex Fire perimeter until there is widespread moisture in the area, and regulated closure is terminated.  The John Day Unit is issuing these permits to homeowners as they prepare to rebuild.  Removing fuels near new building sites will provide for defensible space in future years and allow residents to return home sooner.  For more information about the burn permits please contact ODF’s John Day Office at (541-575-1139).

Fall conditions can provide the perfect opportunity for prescribed burns to remove fuels and unwanted vegetation.  Fuels remain dry enough to carry a lower intensity fire with limited risk of fire spreading outside pre-constructed containment lines.  Several prescribed fires are planned this fall to eradicate juniper on the landscape.  Smoke from these prescribed burns will also be visible. 

The public is asked to report any fires to the John Day Interagency Dispatch Center (541-575-1321), or 911.  Reports will be verified to determine whether permits have been issued, and that landowners are following all permit requirements.  The John Day Unit continues to staff fire engines and air resources to suppress fires.  Fire managers monitor fuel conditions and weather forecasts to determine fire danger and determine necessary restrictions to limit risk of human caused fires.
Additional information and guidance for fire restrictions is available on ODF’s Central Oregon District website: www.odfcentraloregon.com/