The Lane County Fire Defense Board is the name for the local organization of Fire Chiefs in Lane County. Together they discuss issues that affect Fire Protection Services in Lane County.
The decision to close or open burning is one that SCFD and our Lane County Fire Defense Board takes very seriously. We feel that the reduction of fuels; before the summer temperatures increase, is in the best interest of Lane County.
The media makes it sound like the Lane County Fire Defense Board is the only entity that controls open burning. The actual decision is made with the input from several agencies. These agencies include the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), all the individual Fire agencies in Lane County, Central Lane 911 Center and Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA).
Oregon Dept. of Forestry uses standards for the issuance of burning piles of unusable excess in the woods. They will look at the moisture in the woods, weather predictions and various other criteria that will allow or disallow burning in the woods. Many homes in Lane County are located in wooded areas and as such fall under the jurisdiction of ODF.
Lane Regional Air Protection Agency is responsible for air quality in Lane County. They have several monitoring station located in Lane County and they use the information gathered from their readings to allow burning in Lane County. They will take into consideration air temperature, inversions, fog layering and many other factors to make recommendations regarding open burning.
LCFDB uses the recommendations from all the fire districts/departments in Lane County to make their decision. We find that while it may be wet in Santa Clara, no moisture has fallen in South Lane County. We make recommendation based on the information from all.
The following is a description of the conditions in the late spring of 2013. It is used to demonstrate how the decision not to allow burning was reached by consensus.
“At this time input from ODF includes the following information:
A. ODF is not staffed up yet for this Wildland season. Normally staffing would be put into place mid-June. The earlier than usual fire season forced ODF to call in crews (at overtime rates) for the weekend fires. I believe that ODF stated it cost them about one hundred thousand dollars (I state that from memory, could be wrong, but it was alot). These are taxpayer dollars and every attempt is made to conserve them as we are sure the public wants us to do that.
B. Even though moisture is predicted, overall the water table for rain fall this year is significantly under the normal amount. This contributes to the drying of the large fuels; and as large fuels take longer to absorb moisture, this impacts the spread of fire. A few days rain will make no difference to the amount of moisture in these fuels.
Many of the local fire districts stated that they were having significant open burning issues. As with ODF, fires seem to be occurring earlier than usual. Most of the Wildland fires in Lane County this year involved predominately volunteer districts and many fires required mutual aid from neighboring districts due to the fire's size. Our dispatch center reported that on one Saturday alone, 53 incidents were reported in a five hour time period. This is double what the normal amount would be for the time period. In this situation the dispatch center calls in additional resources to handle the amount of work required. As a side note, in the dispatch center, fire incidents require considerable more resources and time, than medical incidents. As stated above, taxpayer dollars are used to accomplish this action.
Further for the LCFDB; if you let one person burn, you have to let everyone. We are not able to allow one area to burn and then not allow another area to burn. It may be wet in one area of the county and still dry in another. Also rather than confuse some patrons, closing once is easier than multiple times.
LRAPA stated that they had no significant reasons to hold off on burning at this time. Air quality did not seem to be effected by open burning.
With the input from all these agencies it is felt that closing the burning season for this year is in the best interest of the residence of Lane County. We are very sorry for the inconvenience this may cause.”