PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hot and dry summer temperatures are sweeping through the Willamette Valley, creating the perfect recipe for wildfires.
The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning on Thursday from 1 to 7 p.m. for the southern half of the Willamette Valley from Albany to Cottage Grove.
A Red Flag Warning is issued during times of low humidity, warm temperatures and wind — all factors that can cause a fire to spread quickly.
While the hot, dry weather may be ideal for camping, it’s also ideal for turning a spark into a wildfire so officials have banned all campfires in the Columbia Gorge.
The ban applies to all open flames that can’t be immediately extinguished: no fires in campfire rings, no charcoal or charcoal barbequing and no burning wood or wood pellets. Fuel-burning devices with shut-off valves such as propane stoves are allowed but propane fire rings are banned.
“It’s just really dry in the campgrounds — Memaloose, Ainsworth, Viento,” said Oregon Parks Department Manager Clay Courtright. “And there are overhanging branches and dryness, so with embers coming off fires, we just decided no open flames.”
Parks officials want to avoid another disaster like the human-caused Eagle Creek Fire of 2017.
There was at least one large wildfire burning in Oregon on Thursday.
The so-called “Milepost 97 Fire” near Canyonville was estimated to be burning 150 acres by around 6:30 p.m. and a Level 3 “GO!” evacuation was issued for residents in the 100 to 300 block of Ritchie Road, according to the Douglas Forest Protective Association.
Fire officials said several helicopters and air tankers were working to help control the blaze.
ODOT said the southbound I-5 off-ramp at the Canyon Creek exit was closed overnight due to the fire.
A smaller fire burned about 2 acres of grass and brush near Lebanon on Thursday. The Lebanon Fire Department said it was under control shortly after noon.
A lawnmower sparked a brush fire along Southwest Unger Road in Cornelius. The fire burned less than half-an-acre of land and damaged a utility trailer and 3 unused vehicles, according to Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. One person was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.