Fire Ban in Effect Statewide

Governor Brown declared a fire emergency today. In accordance with this, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has temporarily banned campfires in all facilities statewide to help do our part to ensure the safety of Oregon’s Parks and their surrounding communities.  This includes the use of charcoal briquettes, tiki torches, all candles, or any open flame that cannot be immediately turned off with a valve.  Large propane fire rings are not permitted on all sites. (check with the park you are headed to for current restrictions.)  Propane cook stoves are permitted; however propane fires may not be left on and unattended.

Visitors planning a trip to a state park should check for up-to-date information about fire restrictions by calling the state parks info line at 800-551-6949.

Culver Middle School Adopts The Cove

This year Culver Middle School has adopted The Cove Palisades State Park as part of their STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program for the 2015/2016 school year.  “Culver Middle School is so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Cove Palisades State Park, creating real world life experiences that foster 21st century skills to be successful in the future while also arranging a solution to a problem right in our backyard,” says Mr. Brad Kudlac, Principal.

This year natural resource management is really the key focus.  Students are challenged to find solutions to real world problems in their community.  In this case they will be tackling threatened wildlife species, habitat loss from wildfire; as well as sharing local oral history.  Culver Middle School  teachers Mrs. Naomi Little, Mr. Mark Habliston and Mr. Jake Shinkle will bring several classes to the park throughout the year. Students will make significant differences in their community at The Cove by creating a certified monarch butterfly way station to aid in the butterflies successful annual migration, riparian restoration in a burned out area of the Crooked River Wetlands area and encouraging other children to learn about The Cove’s history.

One of the first projects undertaken is willow propagation to help restore sections of the Crooked River Wetlands that were burned in a wildfire over the summer.  This project has already piqued the attention of the Governor’s Office.  Everyone involved is really excited to make a difference that visitors and wildlife will notice and appreciate.

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Coyote Willow (Salix exiqua), photo credit USDA

Coyote Willow with it’s long, narrow leaves is the most distinctive of the willow species, is a perennial shrub, native to Central Oregon and much of the west.  This culturally important plant was collected by Native American’s for a variety of uses including food, medicine, building material and basketry material.    It is currently found in the wetlands and is important to birds and wildlife for cover and food.  Willow is also used as stream bank erosion control.

 

 

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Culver Middle School STEM Class

Twenty-four students from Culver Middle School, accompanied by their teacher Mr. Jake Shinkle, came out to the park and collected more than 200 willow cuttings from existing plants that did not burn in the fire.

 

Ms. Maggie Prevenas, OSU STEM Outreach Coordinator, taught students that plant communities are constantly changing.  These changes can be very subtle and can be undetected by the casual observer; however from a management perspective detecting change is essential.  Maggie showed six students how to take photo points.

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Mr. Shinkle and Ms. Prevenas working with students.

This method consists of taking photographs from two permanently fixed points to monitor change in the plant community over time.  Coyote willow roots freely from cuttings, and is an easy species to propagate.  Students are hoping for an 80% survival rate.  These cuttings were taken to the middle school and will be prepared.  The first step is to soak the cuttings in water.  Students will treat half of the cuttings with growth hormone and leave the other half in plain water.  Once cuttings sprout roots, they will be planted and cared for over the winter.  Next spring students will bring their new plants to the park and will repopulate an area that was devastated last August by wildfire.

 

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Wildfire at The Cove, August 29, 2015 – photo credit Jefferson County Fire

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  Area that will be rehabilitated.

 

Stay tuned for more news on all the projects and how they are progressing…

The Cove is Open for Labor Day Weekend

John Keit Photography
photo courtesy of John Feit Photography

Last weekend Crooked River Campground looked very different. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015 was the day of a fast moving, wind driven wildfire that sent campers, staff workers, neighbors and wildlife scurrying to safety at the Crooked River Campground located near Lake Billy Chinook.  Thanks go out to all of the people who helped fight the fire – Oregon State Park Ranger Staff, Neighbors, Volunteers, Fire Crews from around Central Oregon and local law enforcement .

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Mule deer escaping the flames Photo courtesy of John Feit Photography

“All park staff and volunteers that day performed above and beyond the call of duty, and they did it without hesitation,” said Park Manager David Slaght. “They looked out for each other, and no one was hurt. I am so very proud of them all.” Slaght was at home with his family Saturday morning when he got the call that a fire had broken out in the Crooked River Campground (E Loop). He raced to the park, arriving at the same time as a few neighboring farmers driving trucks with water pumps. Together with staff they started building a fire line. “We laid sprinklers and hose line wherever we could to keep the fire from the campground — and we were successful,” Slaght said. Staff and neighbors worked together to protect the campground and neighboring homes until fire crews arrived. Some 20-plus employees and volunteers — including several of the park’s student workers — laid sprinklers and hose line, dug fire line, directed traffic, and helped people evacuate from more than 70 occupied campsites in E Loop. Wind worked against them with gusts up to 60 mph that broke tree limbs and caused the fire to jump and change directions multiple times.  A few campers were not able to evacuate E Loop before the flames reached the road, and seasonal park staff kept them in a protected southwest area for several hours until it was safe to exit. Slaght said, many staff and hosts deserve medals of honor for their efforts that day. He made special mention of the leadership role taken on by seasonal park ranger Lisa Stevenson, who has 16 years of experience as a firefighter in California.  “Lisa and her team started the evacuation and literally saved a family from being burned. Her quick thinking and past firefighter experience made the true difference in this devastating fire,” Slaght said.

Photo Credit: Linda Larson
Photo Credit: Linda Larson

Fire Chief Brian Huff pulled all local resources and requested mutual aid from every Central Oregon fire department.  Emergency First Responders from Jefferson County Fire and Sheriff, Culver Fire, Warm Springs, Oregon State Police, Bureau of Land Management, 3 Rivers, Crook County Fire and Rescue, La Pine Fire, Oregon Department of Forestry, Sunriver Fire and Rescue, Sisters Camp Sherman Fire, and Cloverdale Fire District, (I apologize to any agencies that I didn’t see) battled extreme fire behavior for hours on Saturday and Sunday.  It was incredible how fast the fire moved; wind gusts up to 60 MPH, erratically changing directions along with steep, rocky terrain made fighting it difficult.

The cause of the fire was determined to have originated from charcoal briquettes which were not completely extinguished. The accident has prompted Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to review operational and public safety protocols, said Director Lisa Sumption.

Park staff spent the week installing caution tape and warning signs to keep visitors out of hazardous areas. We’ve been irrigating daily to prevent flare-ups, and firefighters continue to scout the area and put out hotspots.

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As campers pull into a fully-booked Cove Palisades campground this Labor Day weekend, they will see a green oasis surrounded by a charred landscape. Saturday’s 280-acre fire at The Cove left the campground miraculously untouched. The scene is a testament to an incredible team effort at The Cove to protect visitors and the park.

Open flames, candles, tiki torches, and/or charcoal briquettes are banned in all Oregon State Parks east of the Cascades.  While campfires may be part of Labor Day camp-out traditions, they simply are not safe right now.

Fire Fuels Reduction Project Update

Fire is a natural part of a healthy ecosystem.  Wildfires are a common occurrence in Central Oregon due to our high summer temperatures, low precipitation and humidity and numerous lightning strikes.

Fire can provide long-term benefits to forest and watershed health;
however, high intensity or large wildfires can result in significant increases in runoff and erosion, which can negatively impact water quality.
Low - moderate intensity wildfires can encourage vegetative succession and promote diverse habitats.
Low – moderate intensity wildfires can encourage vegetative succession and
promote diverse habitats.

Due to the urban interface, fire suppression is common practice. This is important when saving life and property but it does not make for healthy natural areas.  Park officials deal with vegetation management by thinning and burning.

Juniper Thinning Project spring 2014 (3)

Last year, a contractor was hired to thin some of the Juniper trees in the Deschutes Campground and Day-Use areas to lessen the potential effects of wildfire in the park. (Wood from this project was donated to local senior citizens that needed it for winter). You may have seen piles of cut branches in the park over the summer in 2014.

Ranger Supervisor, Chris Gerdes stands watch over a controlled burn near the Deschutes Campground.
Ranger Supervisor, Chris Gerdes stands watch over a controlled burn near the Deschutes Campground.

While some of the piles were left in place for erosion control and wildlife habitat; other areas were carefully burned over the winter and early spring of 2015.

This summer, see what has popped up in our burned areas…

Fire Danger Will Be Extreme This Summer

WARNING TO PARK USERS – USE CAUTION WITH FIRE

roasting a marshmallow

The west is prime for a busy and deadly fire season this year; and Oregon is no exception.  The snow pack from this winter is well below average in many areas and several counties within Central Oregon District have declared drought emergencies. Precipitation over the last 90 days has been near or below average, and warm, dry weather is expected to continue. As a result we are quickly approaching high fire danger levels when a fire that starts can get big very quickly.

The Oregon Department of Forestry has set Monday, June 9, 2014 as the beginning of wildfire season for Central Oregon, 5 days earlier than last year which turned out to be the worst season on state protected land in 60 years.  The number of fires and acres burned isn’t necessarily the best gauge of how bad a fire season can get: Although 2013 saw a record-low number of wildfires nationwide, it was one of the deadliest for firefighters. The U.S. Forest Service says the wildfire season now averages 78 days longer than it did in the mid-1980s.

People heading out to recreate on public lands during fire season need to check fire and weather conditions.  Checking in advance is a routine precaution that campers should exercise every summer during fire season, if for no other reason than road closures are always possible.  Campers need to obey all closures and restrictions, no matter how inconvenient they may be.  Be prepared to change your travel plans quickly when the situation warrants.  Keep in mind that you may not be able to cook food the way you had planned.

Boaters may find lakes, reservoirs, or rivers closed if fire fighting helicopters need to fill buckets or tanks from the water.

While we can’t control the weather that leads to lightning-caused fires, everyone can do their part to prevent human-caused fires.  If you have a campfire, please take these precautions to limit the potential for disaster:

  • Make small camp fires only in designated fire rings.
  • Make sure all firewood is inside your fire ring, no limbs hanging out of the sides.
  • Educate young campers not to play with fire or run around with burning sticks.
  • Do not burn garbage
  • Do not add gasoline, diesel or lighter fluid to get a wood fire started.
  • Do not leave your campfire unattended.
  • When you leave, make sure your fire is dead out – mix with water or dirt – if it’s too hot to put your hand over, it’s not out.
  • If conditions are unsafe, do not light a campfire.
  • Make sure you charcoal BBQ’s are on a firm, flat, surface.
  • Cover charcoal BBQ’s
  • Do not dump hot coals in garbage cans or in vegetation areas.
  • Use caution if you have to park in or next to dried grass.
  • Do not smoke on trails.

Oregon residents are strongly encouraged to contact their local fire protection agencies for additional burning information and specifics regarding any regulations on the use of chain saws, warming fires, BBQs or ATVs.