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Beach Fires Becoming a Problem on Oregon Coast - Already Banned South

Published 08/03/21 at 6:22 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Beach Fires Becoming a Problem on Oregon Coast - Already Banned South

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(Brookings, Oregon) – It's official: beach bonfires are a bad idea right now, and they're even banned on the southern Oregon coast. Two near-misses with fires on the beach help illustrate that, with both getting somewhat out of control and requiring the local fire department to come and put it out. (Above: Crissey Field's driftwood fire nearly got out of control / courtesy OPRD)

Oregon is extremely dry right now, and the risks keep piling up. A fire that spread on the beach at Crissey Field State Park in Brookings and another in Rockaway Beach drove that point home.

Chris Havel, associate director with Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), summed it up rather poignantly in a statement to Oregon Coast Beach Connection:

“Things are as dry as we've ever seen it right now,” Havel said. “If you love the beach, don't light a fire.”

At Crissey Field on July 28, OPRD rangers discovered a fire in a pile of driftwood starting to get out of control after midnight. They were forced to call the fire department.

“It appeared to be from a beach fire in the driftwood and then got out of control,” OPRD said in a recent social media post. “The flames were stopped before they reached the dry vegetation.”

Crissey Field actually had to close for a time and the driftwood pile burn area was enormous, according to an interagency report. Part of the problem: Coos and Curry counties have all beach fires banned, so this was not a legal fire in the first place.

According to the report:

Courtesy OPRD

“Beach fire in Driftwood that got out of control, although no visitors were on site. Fire agencies were able to fully extinguish the flames, and we are extremely lucky that the living vegetation did not catch on fire; flames were ~ 5 ft. away. Total damaged area is ~ 60 ft.× 60 ft. Driftwood logs. No apparent damage to trails or the building.”

Up on the north Oregon coast, where beach fires are not banned, another beach fire that smoldered all night in Rockaway Beach then reignited. That one apparently began to grow and move towards other large piles of driftwood.

Both situations could've meant major fires, had they not been caught in time.

As of Tuesday, August 3, all beach fires are banned in Coos and Curry counties, although some state parks will allow campfires in the campgrounds – a patchwork of bans and exceptions that does make this a bit complex.

For the south coast, according to OPRD:

- Fire ban includes wood, charcoal briquettes, candles, tiki torches and other devices that emit flames or embers.
- Propane stoves and other cooking devices that have a shutoff valve are allowed.
- Fireworks are prohibited year round on all Oregon beaches.
- Look for signs at all beach access points.

All state park properties east of I-5 have banned fires of any kind due to extreme fire dangers.

The latest updates on state parks can be found here. Conditions are dry and tenuous enough that you should not be surprised that all the Oregon coast will end up banning beach fires.

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Photos courtesy OPRD

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees nearly 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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