Fox News Weather Center

Oregon officials fear unprepared solar eclipse visitors could lead to wildfire disaster


A million people are expected to flock to Oregon's slice of land in the upcoming solar eclipse's totality path, but in a year with an elevated fire danger, officials are taking no risk in protecting the area.

The eclipse will occur on Monday, Aug. 21.

"With temperatures over 100 degrees and vegetation drying out quickly, the fire danger is already extreme," said Shelly Hall, superintendent of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located in central Oregon.

As of Aug. 8, there are 12 active wildfires burning in Oregon.

bear butte oregon fire

A haze covers the sky over the Bear Butte Fire in Baker County, Oregon, on Aug. 4. (Photo/InciWeb/National Wildfire Coordinating Group)


There are restrictions in place on campfires, smoking and operating equipment like chainsaws, she said.

Visitors are urged to do their research and be smart when spending time outdoors.

"Visitors who come from urban areas or areas with lower fire danger may not be aware that pulling a vehicle off the side of the road over dry grasses can ignite a fire," Hall said. "One big concern is that if a wildfire starts, response may be hampered by heavy traffic, and evacuation would be complicated with so many people over a large and very rural area."

Reservations are not required for public land, so some officials are left guessing what extent of resources will be needed.

For a unique event such as the eclipse, officials fear some visitors will not be properly prepared.

Eclipse visitors may not have previous experience on public land and those who are not situationally aware pose the biggest concern, said Susan Garner, a public affairs officer for the Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River Grassland, which is in the direct path of the eclipse.

Something as simple as a hot car parked on dry grass can ignite a fire.

August is the typical peak of fire season in central Oregon. Open fires have been prohibited in Ochoco National Forest and Crooked River Grassland since July 21 outside of designated campgrounds.

Visitors should check their park's website for restrictions and safety tips before venturing out.