Land managers concerned with human-caused fires

At least nine have been started since April 20
    June 18, 2003 — Central Oregon has had few lightning-caused fires this year, but fire managers are becoming concerned about a rash of human-caused blazes that have `recently plagued the Deschutes National Forest.
   Since April 20, human activity has started nine fires on Central Fire Management Service's Cascades Division, while thunderstorms have ignited four. The division encompasses federal land between the Cascade Range and Highway 97, stretching from the Warm Springs Indian Reservation south to Wickiup Reservoir.
   Off-duty firefighters discovered a human-caused fire Tuesday night off Skyliners Road. Oregon Department of Forestry, USDA Forest Service and contract crews took about five hours to control the quarter-acre fire as it burned four miles west of Bend.
   "We just totally lucked out," said Doug Johnson, assistant fire management officer for the division.
   Johnson said burning material campers left had ignited logging slash off the 4610 Road. The area has about 130 slash piles and several log decks, remnants from the Katalo Timber Sale.
   Oregon Department of Forestry and USDA Forest Service crews
   extinguished another human-caused fire Tuesday that burned within a quarter of a mile of homes. An abandoned campfire on the east side of the Deschutes River near Pringle Falls started the quarter-acre blaze.
   Phil Henderson, suppression technician for the division, said the campfire crept through organic material in the soil, after campers left without completely extinguishing it.
   Henderson said suppression efforts were aided by fuels reduction thinning and hand-piling crews completed in the area last January.
   "That's the only reason it didn't take off," he said. "It could've been a real problem without the fuels treatment work."
   Both fires are still under investigation, according to Karla Ksenzulak, a Deschutes National Forest fire investigator and prevention officer.
   People convicted of unintentionally starting wildland fires can be fined up to $500, imprisoned for six months and billed for suppression costs.
   Ksenzulak said people building campfires on federal lands should always have a shovel, ax and bucket or fire extinguisher available. In addition, ensure campfires are dead out and cold before leaving them, she said.
   Visitors can get more information about federal campfire restrictions by checking agency Web sites, following posted signs, asking campground hosts or contacting USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management offices.
   Fire managers advise Central Oregonians to always check current fire restrictions before starting fires, whether on private or public land.