With conditions growing increasingly dry, the first target shooting-caused fire of the season sparked in the Deschutes National Forest over the weekend.
On Saturday, firefighters on the Sisters Ranger District responded to a wildfire reported at Zimmerman Butte, just east of Sisters, where some people were target shooting.
“The folks were doing everything right, they weren’t using anything illegal,” said Jaimie Olle, the Public Affairs Specialist for the Deschutes National Forest. “However, the bullet is thought to have ricocheted off a cinder and did catch the sage nearby on fire.”
The fire was contained to under an acre of space.
There have been other 27 wildfires reported in the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, Prineville BLM lands, and Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands in Central Oregon in the past month.
They are presumed to be human-caused, and all contained under a single acre.
With temperatures rising, the risk goes up even more.
Jane Killefer, who lives in the Tollgate neighborhood a few miles down the road from Zimmerman Butte, heard about the fire through the Pulse Point app on Saturday. For her and her neighbors, the threat of fire is nothing new.
“We were evacuated I believe in the 80’s, and again in the Milli Fire we were in a Level 2 evacuation,” she said.
Killefer is the chairperson of the neighborhood association’s Firewise Committee, which seeks to educate neighbors on doing what they can in case of emergency.
“We live in a fire zone,” she said. “We can be proactive and in control and within our choices about what we do within our property. Removing pine needles, keeping the five-foot defensible space, limbing up your trees, taking away your combustibles away from your home.”
The committee has stepped up local preparations this year, some of them for personal reasons.
“When we went to buy here in Tollgate several years ago, we were denied homeowners insurance because of the fire risk,” Killefer said. “And with a lot of work between the homeowners association and the documents they have, and the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Department, we were able to literally close on our home here.”
Others have come from personal tragedy.
“We have about five people that live here in Tollgate that are survivors of the Paradise, California fire several years ago,” she said. “Two of those people are members on our committee.”
Olle urged the public to be mindful as we enter the hotter part of the summer season.
“Everything from if you have a campfire, making sure that it’s fully extinguished and put out before leaving it unattended,” she said. “If you’re driving, making sure that you’re not driving or parking on dead or dry vegetation. If you’re pulling a trailer, making sure that those chains are secure and not dragging to where they could cause a spark.
“Especially as we move into Fourth of July weekend, we want to remind folks that fireworks are always illegal on national forest land.”
The Tollgate neighborhood will host a variety of educational events coming up to help homeowners protect their spaces.
“Fires are going to happen, and they’re going to happen within our neighborhood and outside our neighborhood,” Killefer said. “The main purpose of Firewise in Tollgate is to be proactive and to be prepared.”
For more information about upcoming events and updates, visit their website here.