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Outdoor Burning, May 13, 2020

May contain: person, helmet, fire truck, transportation, truck, and vehicle

Every year Umatilla County Fire District #1 responds to many outdoor burning related incidents. Often these are reported by people passing by an area or seeing a smoke column from a distance and reporting a fire that is found to be within regulations.

The approved burn days utilized by Umatilla County Fire District #1 are set by Umatilla County Smoke Management and take current or predicted weather among other information into consideration for allowing open burning to occur. Even on approved burn days weather conditions can change. Those igniting fires need to be aware of the weather conditions and make appropriate adjustments as needed. The fact that it may be an approved burn day for Umatilla County does not guarantee that conditions in our area will be or remain favorable to conduct outdoor burning.

During a three day period in the Fall of 2019 Umatilla County Fire District #1 responded to two open burning activities that escaped control of the individual who was conducting the burning resulting in two residential structures and some outbuildings that were damaged by the escaped burns to the point that they were no longer able to be occupied. So far this Spring of 2020 we have responded to 21 fires incidents some of which escaped control. These fire responses have resulted in damaging one residential structure and multiple outbuildings. In some cases the person conducting the open burning indicated that they “put water on the fire and thought it was out” only to have the wind come up later in the day or the next day and start burning again. The simple act of putting water on a fire does not guarantee that it is out. These fires should be treated like a campfire with the use of tools and water to complete extinguishment. This is especially true of burning fine materials like sawdust or areas where dead materials have been in place and have started to decay.

In Oregon under Oregon Revised Statute 478.960 (3) Nothing in this section relieves a person starting a fire from responsibility for providing adequate protection to prevent injury or damage to the person or property of another. If such burning results in the escape of fire and injury or damage to the person or property of another, such escape and damage or injury constitutes prima facie evidence that the burning was not safe. This may result in a request to law enforcement for a citation for reckless burning or other charges.

Under Oregon Revised Statute 478.965 Recovery by district of costs of suppressing unlawful fire; attorney fees. (1) If the fire-fighting apparatus or personnel, or either of a district, are required to respond and be used actively or on a standby basis in connection with the extinguishment or control of a fire that has been started or allowed to spread in willful violation of ORS 478.960 (1) to (5), the person responsible therefor shall be liable to the district furnishing such apparatus or personnel, or both, for the actual costs incurred by the district in controlling, extinguishing or patrolling the fire.

At Umatilla County Fire District #1 education is our first choice following response to these types of incidents however, we evaluate each of these responses for possible cost recovery.

Open burning for the summer fire season ends May 31st and will resume October 1st.

A copy of the burning regulations is available below