Keeping Safe From Fire in the Woods…

LYONS, Ore. – To a man, the 165 small woodland owners gathered on the 145-acre McCully Mountain Tree Farm had wild fire season on their minds. Fire season is here and the forecast for business in northwest forests is not good

Joe Arbow, Stewardship Forester with the Santiam Unit in Mehama, brought an Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) tanker unit to the forest tour site in Lyons on June 19. Oregon Small Woodlands Association and American Tree Farm Systems sponsored the event to celebrate Linda Butts as 2014 Tree Farmer of the Year.

“The dry winter and spring and lack of snow pack in the mountains has set us up for a busy fire season,” Arbow said. “We can’t control the start of naturally occurring fires, but we do prepare and train for all fires. We monitoring all ground-based operations looking for clearly defined unlocked tool boxes complete with fire fighting tools, pumps with at least 250 feet of hose and nozzle ready to operate at all times and fire extinguishers for each internal combustion engine and chainsaw in operation.

“On inspections, we look at cable operations first because rubbing lines create sparks, and we look to see that spark arrester systems in good working order are in place. Operators are also required to conduct fire watches for one hour after they shut down during Stage I and two hours in Stage II. Stage III closes the woods.”

Arbow, one of about 20 people (includes seasonal workers) in the Mehama ODF office responsible for fire protection on state, private, and BLM lands in northern Linn and eastern Marion Counties. A native of Bend, he started fighting wildland fires while attending high school. After receiving his Bachelor degree in Geography and GIS (geographical information systems) from Portland State, he worked for ODF in Lakeview, Coos Bay, Astoria and Springfield. In addition to fire protection, he conducts forest practices inspections.

K.C. VanNatta, a prominent tree farmer and logging operator from Columbia County talked about his ongoing fire protection regiment.

“You can’t go out with out shaking down all of your fire trucks to make sure you have everything you need,” VanNatta said. “You never know when something might have been stolen or used and not put back. Your fire extinguishers, gallons of water and working spark arresters and exhaust system. You can’t go out without making sure you have them.”

For detailed information on the current fire season and information on how Oregon private land owners protect their forests from fire, visit National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook at www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov .

-Jan Jackson©

Photo caption: Joe Arbow center, K.C. VanNatta rightr; photo by Jan Jackson

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