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A Discussion with Chief Janes and Forester Leo Williamson

2024 ODF Restrictions

July, 2024


What CRFPD Residents Need to Know About Fire Danger Levels and Use Restrictions: A Discussion with Chief Janes and Protection Unit Forester Leo Williamson

 It’s official! Fire Season 2024 arrived July 1. This seemed like a good time to sit down with Corvallis Fire Department (CFD) Chief Ben Janes and Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Protection Unit Forester Leo Williamson to talk about what’s new this fire season and share some questions we’ve heard from neighbors in the Corvallis Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) and around town. (You may also want to check out the Resources & Information and FAQ sections of our website for more general information).


 Q: People are noticing—there are new Fire Danger Level signs at a few locations. Tell us about those.

These are the brightly colored signs with the arrow pointing to the current Fire Danger level. There were some signs already in the Corvallis Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) but we added three this year; we were allowed to place a sign on Highway 99 at the Lewisburg intersection (thanks to Comcast) and another on the south side of town on 99 thanks to Lincoln Elementary. A third sign is mobile and was created by a local Eagle Scout—you’ll see that one deployed at different locations.


Q: Why now?

We had the opportunity to use some OSFM (Oregon State Fire Marshal) Grant funding to acquire the signs. Fire doesn’t care which jurisdiction it’s in and we are all aware that fire danger is increasing in the City, the CRFPD, and the forest. It made sense to increase the signage, especially in the rural-urban interface, to raise awareness of fire danger to all members of the community.


Q: Why is it important for people to know the current fire risk level? It’s pretty intuitive that fire danger increases when it’s hot and vegetation is brown so why do people need to know that actual level?

 Risk for fires growing larger and more costly rises with increasing Fire Danger levels. It’s important to know what the Fire Danger level is because it changes what activities are restricted in ODF protected lands. For example, chainsaw use is allowed all day at LOW and MODERATE Fire Danger levels but chainsaw use is prohibited 1p.m.-8p.m. at the HIGH danger level and prohibited entirely when the danger level is EXTREME. Please consult the ODF Public Use Restrictions “color chart” (included below) for more details.


Q: I see the signs have both the ODF (Oregon Department of Forestry) and CFD (Corvallis Fire Department) insignias. Who (what entity) determines the risk level?

ODF determines the Fire Danger level based on current and expected fuels and weather conditions.


Q: To what geographical area does the Fire Danger level on the signs apply?

 The fire risk applies to the whole region; the activity restrictions associated with the Fire Danger levels apply to specific areas. 

Most residents within the CRFPD are within the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Western Oregon District. Our ODF District, for the purposes of determining and setting the Fire Danger level, is split into three zones: WO-1, WO-2 and WO-3. The zones make an effort to lump areas with similar weather patterns together in recognition of the understanding that the Fire Danger on the coast is likely to be much different than it is on the eastern slopes of the coast range and the valley floor. Residents within CFD’s and CRFPD’s fire districts fall into zone WO-3, which stretches from roughly the summit of Mary’s Peak to the eastern edge of Benton County. The signs we’re discussing here reflect the Fire Danger level in WO-3.


Q: I don’t typically drive by any of the signs. Is there another way I can find out WO-3’s Fire Danger level, and the level/restrictions for my property specifically?

 Please visit: or ODF’s Facebook page at where current restrictions are always up to date. If at any time you do not have internet access or would prefer to talk with someone on the phone directly, please don’t hesitate to call the ODF Philomath Unit office at (541) 929-3266. When in doubt, we recommend that residents follow the restrictions.


Q: When does fire season start? What’s the difference between the Fire Danger level on the sign and “fire season”? 

In any given year fire season could be declared between roughly June 1st and July 15th. This is a large window because ODF looks at the conditions, not the calendar, in making its determination. If we have a dry spring we are more likely to declare fire season earlier than on a year like 2024 when we continued to receive moisture all the way through June. Now that we’ve declared fire season we will adjust the Fire Danger level as we move through the summer, to reflect a relative risk in a certain area. Early in the season the risk of fires growing large and costly is lower (i.e. LOW or MODERATE on the Fire Danger signs) than later in the summer when fuels have had weeks or months to dry out, winds have increased, and there is no rain in the forecast. This is a scenario where you’d likely see HIGH or even EXTREME Fire Danger, because of the greater risk that a fire could grow larger and more costly. It’s common for us at ODF to change the Fire Danger level up or down throughout the summer in response to changes in the weather.


Q: Is the high or extreme Fire Danger level the same thing as a "red flag warning?”

They are not the same. “HIGH” Fire Danger reflects the fuels and weather conditions and is determined by the local ODF District. A “red flag warning” is issued by the National Weather Service and can describe high temperatures, low relative humidity, strong winds, dry lightning and atmospheric instability. Red flag warnings serve as an extra heads up that within the next 24 hours more extreme fire conditions are expected and any fire starts will we tougher to contain. ODF and CFD respond to these conditions by bringing on additional resources, extending staff hours and patrols, and potentially increasing the Fire Danger level to further restrict certain activities. The public should take special care when recreating or working outside during red flag events and always immediately report a fire to 9-1-1. Additional information on red flag warnings is available through OSU Extension:


Q: The “color chart” shows that at LOW and MODERATE Fire Danger levels debris burning varies by District. How do I know whether I’m in a District where debris burning is allowed?

During fire season (effective July 1) debris burning is prohibited in ODF’s West Oregon District, which includes CRFPD.


Q: At what Fire Danger level are fireworks prohibited?

Once fire season is declared (i.e. July 1 this year), ALL fireworks are prohibited on lands protected by ODF, at ALL Fire Danger levels. (Information on fireworks use within Corvallis’ city limits is available through the City of Corvallis:


Q: Are contractors working on my property subject to the restrictions on activities at the different Fire Danger levels?

It depends on the contractor and the activity. Feel free to call ODF’s Philomath office for information (541-929-3266). At the very least during elevated Fire Danger it’s important to remind contractors of the situation and take common sense preventive steps (e.g. encourage them to have fire extinguishers on hand, make sure there is a water source nearby, understand some machinery should not be used when dry grasses or other flammable material is below it, etc.).


Q: If I engage in a restricted activity, could it impact my homeowner’s insurance?

We don’t know; different carriers have different policies. However, you could be held responsible to pay for damage resulting from a fire you start (including the cost to suppress the fire) whether or not you started the fire on purpose.