There aren’t many better ways to celebrate America’s birthday than by getting outside and enjoying our national birthright – our public forests. With that in mind, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest officials would like to remind visitors that a fun trip to the forest starts with having a safe trip to the forest. Driving safely and being fire-savvy will protect you, your neighbors and your community.
“Protecting the forest is everyone’s responsibility, and that starts with enjoying the forest responsibly,” said Wallowa-Whitman Fire Management Officer Noel Livingston. “The vast majority of wildfires are accidentally started by people, so if we all make smarter choices in the woods, we will experience fewer fires.”
This year’s wet and chilly spring means that snow still lingers at many high-elevation areas of the Wallowa-Whitman. While most major forest roads are clear, check road conditions on the forest website or your local ranger station before traveling to remote areas. As you drive, be watchful for rockslides, washouts, downed trees and branches, or other obstacles. When in doubt, turn around – don’t try to push through impassable terrain or snowdrifts. Report any road damage to the nearest ranger station. Be prepared for trouble: backcountry travelers should have a good spare tire, warm clothing and raingear, extra food and water, and a first-aid kit. The summer has also brought a bumper crop of ticks, so be sure to check frequently for uninvited guests.
While fire danger remains “Low” to “Moderate” across the forest at this time, it’s still important to take precautions against the threat of fire – particularly in grassy areas. Our wet winter and spring have brought a dense growth of grass, which can quickly dry and burn, fueling rapid fire spread.
- Make sure that the underside of your vehicle is parked clear of grass and other vegetation. Exhaust components, particularly catalytic converters, are very hot and can start a fire.
- Check your vehicle for grass wrapped around driveshafts and other drive components. Rubbing grass buildup can start fires as well as damage your vehicle.
Follow these common-sense rules to safely build your campfire, make some s’mores and take home great memories:
- Build your fire in a rock or steel ring or dirt pit; use existing rings where possible. If you build your own ring, please follow Leave No Trace principles.
- Have a shovel and a gallon of water ready in case of emergency.
- Ensure that the area around and above the ring is free and clear of any combustible materials, including overhanging branches. (Nearby tents will burn!)
- Never, ever leave a campfire unattended.
- When you’re done, drown the fire with water and stir the ashes until cold. Do not leave the fire until you’re sure it’s dead out. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s not out.
As summer continues, weather warms and fire danger increases, the Wallowa-Whitman will implement phased Public Use Restrictions, or PURs, which restrict or prohibit certain activities in the forest, including campfires, chainsaws and motor vehicle travel. Make sure you know the current forest PUR status before you travel, and comply with all restrictions – they’re enforced to protect the forest, our communities and the public.
For more information on Public Use Restrictions, fire danger levels or fire safety, contact your local ranger station or visit on the web: