Due to an unseasonably warm and dry spring, fire season may arrive earlier than usual to Wallowa County and the rest of northeast Oregon, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
As a result, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is now hiring its seasonal firefighter work force and expects be fully staffed by early June.
“Generally, our firefighters head south in June to help other forests, but this year we expect to see fire activity earlier in the year,” said Brett Ruby, Wallowa-Whitman's fire staff officer.
Ruby suggested early firewood cutting "to avoid any fire restrictions that may occur earlier than normal this summer.”
Declining snow packs and low precipitation levels are allowing access to the forest earlier than usual, Ruby said. If weather continues to be warmer and drier than usual, restrictions may be imposed, he said.
As always, visitors should use care when having campfires or using mechanized equipment in the woods to avoid starting a wildfire, officials warned. Roads at this time of year may be free of snow but most have not been maintained so travelers are advised to use caution.
For more information about firewood-cutting restrictions, call 541-426-5552. To report wildland fires, call 9-1-1.