As the August 21, 2017 solar eclipse gets closer, forest officials on the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests are preparing for a large influx of visitors to the area. While some visitors will arrive with previous camping experience, many visitors will be using public lands for the first time. The Forest Service and other agencies have been making preparations to help everyone enjoy the eclipse as safely as possible, while also protecting natural resources.
Human-caused wildfires are a significant concern, given the extreme fire danger across eastern Oregon and the expected increase in campers and visitors for the upcoming solar eclipse. To address this concern, the national forests have activated a National Interagency Wildfire Prevention and Education Team to assist with fire prevention awareness in the days before and during the upcoming solar eclipse. The team will be staffing information centers throughout the three national forests to provide critical fire prevention messages and visitor information. Several information boards will also be placed throughout the forests to provide key information, including maps and pertinent regulations, as well as fire prevention information.
“We anticipate that many individuals traveling to view the eclipse may not be aware of the current wildfire danger,” said April Phillips, Fire Prevention Team Leader. Eastern Oregon hasn’t had significant rainfall since June, so any spark can start a wildfire.
The Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests are now at the peak of fire season. The fire danger rating is EXTREME across the three forests and Public Use Restrictions banning campfires and chainsaw use are in effect. Forest officials ask the public to obey campfire restrictions and forest rules, avoid parking on or driving on dry grass, and be sure there are no chains dragging from vehicles. While this is a celebratory event, visitors must leave all fireworks at home if they are visiting public lands, because it is illegal to discharge or even possess fireworks on public lands.
Most remote areas have limited services, facilities and wireless coverage. Please plan ahead and contact one of the national forest offices to make sure you have the latest information, know the regulations, and come prepared with the right supplies before heading into the forest. Office hours may vary by forest leading up to, and during the solar eclipse.