A Bureau of Land Management fire crew conducts pile burning of cut juniper at Hunter Mountain, north of Juntura, earlier in the year. A red flag warning has been issued for the local area because of expected thunderstorm activity. (The Enterprise/Photo Courtesy of BLM)

VALE - Malheur County is under a red flag warning from the National Weather Service for fire conditions because of potential lightning.

The warning is in effect from 11 a.m. Monday to 11 p.m. Tuesday as thunderstorms are expected to roll into the area Monday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Boise. A red flag warning indicates that “critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will occur shortly.”

While thunderstorms are expected to die down overnight, they are “expected to increase again Tuesday afternoon,” with wind gusts potentially reaching 50 to 60 mph, according to the Weather Service.

The warning comes nearly a week after the county’s last red flag warning on July 22, which prompted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to announce new restrictions for the public on its lands. The restrictions took effect Monday.

The restrictions banned cross-country travel, using campfires, smokers, wood stoves, portable braziers and charcoal briquettes, using exploding targets, tracer and incendiary ammunition, and fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices. Driving or parking vehicles or equipment with combustion engines is restricted to areas without vegetation. When using a vehicle wider than 48 inches and heavier than 800 pounds on public lands, the individual must carry a shovel and a one-gallon container of water or fire extinguisher

Liquefied and bottled gas stoves and heaters are allowed as long as they are used within a 10-foot diameter area clear of flammable materials. Smoking outside is only allowed within a 6-foot diameter area without flammable materials.

Violating the conditions can result in a fine of up to $1,000, 12 months in prison or both.

The Ontario Fire Department implemented a burn ban that went into effect Saturday, July 25 because of “extremely dry conditions,” according to a press release from the department.

Open burning or burn barrels are banned until further notice, according to the release. The ban covers all lands in Malheur County and those in local city or rural fire districts.

Agricultural burning, not including ditch banks or trash piles, is allowed only “by permit issued” from a local fire department, according to the release. The burning must also follow four guidelines — it must be “continuously attended,” have a fire line enclosing the area before ignition, a water supply on sight until the burn is finished, and field burning must stop if winds exceed 15 mph, the temperature exceeds 90 degrees, or both.

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