Oregon’s Department of Forestry is asking land owners in several districts around the state to help ensure the agency is prepared to respond to wildfires as the solar eclipse approaches.
Land owners in several districts in the path of totality were sent letters from the Department of Forestry earlier this month asking residents to plan ahead. Fire responders warn of the challenges that might arise with an estimated 1 million visitors coming to the state to witness the eclipse.
“We depend on land owners for assistance in many forms,” said Ron Graham, deputy chief of the department's Fire Protection Division.
“When landowner communities can work together and plan and have some ownership in that, it’s a huge part of the system and it’s a great asset to the system.”
The Oregon Department of Transportation anticipates heightened traffic and congestion that could complicate emergency responders' ability to reach those who need help.
In the letter to land owners, the forestry department also suggested residents consider the potential for fire starts caused by visitors unfamiliar with local conditions and restrictions.
The department will be fully staffed the week of the eclipse, pre-positioning helicopters, tankers and firefighters in areas of high fire occurrences and where there are planned eclipse events.
Graham said the department is also taking into consideration local conditions as central and eastern Oregon enter an extended drying trend.
He said the department is not in a state of panic, likening the heightened caution to the devastating 2013-15 fire seasons.
“I don’t think there’s cause for concern,” said Graham. “I think there’s cause for awareness.”