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N. Oregon Coast Officials: Burning Driftwood Logs on Beaches a Bad Idea

Published 5/12/24 at 6:25 p.m.
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection Staff

(Manzanita, Oregon) – At least conditions aren't too dry out here right now. Those warmer, drier summers have caused some amount of fire chaos on Oregon beaches before. (Photo Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue)

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On the north Oregon coast, someone left a rather pesky beach bonfire behind Sunday morning, causing Nehalem Bay Fire & Rescue (NBFR) to send out a message about what kind of beach bonfires are OK and what aren't.

Someone last night set fire to a large driftwood log on Manzanita's beach, and that's a bad idea on the coast, NBFR said.

“Before you head to the beach for your first bonfire of the season, here’s one, of several rules to follow: DO NOT burn any driftwood you might find on the beach.”

Firefighters got a call in the morning about the big chunk of wood in the sands.

“NBFR was called for a large smoldering driftwood log on Manzanita Beach this morning,” the agency said on social. “After 75 gallons of water were applied, this log will still continue smoldering for quite some time - posing a risk to both animals and humans that might climb on it.”

Make fires only out of smaller pieces of wood, which can include a lot of things you find on beaches.

Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection: do not leave a fire unattended like this after dark

That was not the only still-burning issue on the beach – and now other authorities are involved.

“While on the beach, there were several other smoldering fires spotted. Oregon State Parks set out to investigate the others,” the agency said.

NBFR said to enjoy Oregon's beaches, but: “be respectful by following local rules and regulations on acceptable fuels and proper extinguishment of your fire.”

Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) said the rules for beach fires are relatively simple.

1 – They should be on open sand and not in the midst of driftwood or even close to vegetation.

2 – Always put your fire out with water and not sand.

“Covering the fire with sand will insulate the coals, keeping them hot enough to burn someone hours or even days later,” OPRD said.

There are incidents almost every year of someone burning their foot along the Oregon coast by unwittingly walking on a smoldering fire hidden under sands.

3 – Pour water on the campfire slowly as doing this too quickly causes hot sand to fly.

Beach bonfires in the midst of driftwood are the primary cause of vegetation fires along the coastline, and drier years like 2021 saw Oregon beaches get hit by quite a few.

Fire at Crissey Field (OPRD)

In July of that year Crissey Field, near Brookings on the south coast, saw a huge pile of driftwood catch fire. The area was already clogged a few layers deep with the giant logs from the sea. After midnight on July 28, a large area was suddenly on fire.

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

Another beach fire that summer caused a massive chunk of hillside near Oceanside to catch fire.

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Below: blaze in Oceanside, 2021 (Tillamook Fire & Rescue)

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Coastal Spotlight

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

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