Monday, June 26, 2017

Firefighters Stomp Out 16 Lightning Fires on the District: Recon Mission Underway

Firefighters halted the spread of 16 lightning-caused fires on ODF-protected lands over the last 16 hours. Yesterday’s storm kept the ODF Southwest Oregon District and local fire agencies engaged as roughly 1,500 down strikes hit Jackson and Josephine Counties.
All lightning-related fires on the district were kept small; the largest being the Little Battle Mountain Fire which was just confirmed to be one acre. Originally, several of the fires were estimated to be a bit larger when discovered last night. However, now that all fires are contained and crews have had the chance to obtain an accurate GPS, several fires have “shrunk” in size.
“The initial size-up is usually different then the final #fire size. That’s due to a lot of things like time of day, amount of smoke, wind and even the slope. But at the end of the day, the fire size isn’t the most important factor, but how quickly and efficiently we can get the fire out in order to keep firefighters safe and free up additional resources,” said Dave Larson, District Forester.
Today, the district’s priority is to spot new fire starts. We will have a recon aircraft up throughout the entirety of the day searching both counties for smokes. However, lightning fires are tricky in that it can take days, even weeks for a smoke to pop up.
Therefore, this is only the starting point for our recon mission.
We would like to remind everyone that the fire danger level on Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties will remain at “moderate” (blue) for the time being. This means that our shut down time for several power-driven tools is from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. For a full list of the public restrictions currently in place, visit our Facebook page: @ODFSouthwest or our website: www.swofire.com.
For additional information about the Oregon Department of Forestry, please call or visit the Southwest Oregon District unit office nearest to you:
• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr., Grants Pass. (541) 474-3152
(Photo: Little Battle Mountain Fire, June 25, 2017)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lightning Fire Update: 9:45 p.m.

Roughly 1,500 lightning strikes hit ODF Southwest Oregon District tonight.
Nearly 40 reports of smoke throughout Jackson and Josephine Counties have kept our crews busy over the last several hours.
As of 9:45 p.m. tonight, we have 13 confirmed fires. Most of the fires are contained, and those that are still active are currently staffed with multiple engines and crews.
Firefighters will continue working throughout the night in order to knock down the remaining fires and search for additional smokes. Please be cautious of continued fire traffic in both counties.
We would like to thank all of our partners throughout our region. The multi-agency #teamwork is impeccable.
As a reminder, there is still a chance of thunder and lightning overnight into tomorrow morning. We will be back at it tomorrow searching for additional starts.
(Next update will be tomorrow morning)

Lightning Fire Update: 6:55 p.m.

So far, close to 600 down strikes have hit our area, ranging from the Oregon-California border north to Trail, and Cave Junction east to Pinehurst.
Across both Jackson and Josephine Counties, we have responded to over 32 reports of smoke.
Of those calls, 9 were confirmed #fires, all under 1/2 an acre in size. Crews are still searching in the remaining reported areas, but have not located fires in several locations. In fact, some are duplicate calls for the same fire.
Tomorrow, we will have aircraft up doing a recon flight. The goal is to take a look at the big picture to see if any smokes are visible from the air.
Why couldn't we do this flight today? The active storm cells this afternoon posed too much of a hazard for our team.
Here's a quick snapshot of just one moment throughout ODF Southwest Oregon District's evening, and there's another round on the way.
Stay safe out there! #FireSeason is definitely here. Remember, clouds and a small amount of rain does not mean the fire danger level decreases. Burning debris piles is STILL prohibited. #KeepOregonGreen

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fire Danger Level Jumps to Moderate Wednesday: Public Fire Restrictions will take effect

The fire danger level on Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties will increase to “moderate” (blue) on Wednesday, June 21 at 12:01 a.m. 
The Industrial Fire Precaution Level will remain at Level I (one).
These regulations affect 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city and Bureau of Land Management lands protected by ODF Southwest Oregon District.

Public fire restrictions currently in effect, which will remain in effect, include:
• No debris burning, including piles and debris burned in burn barrels;
• No fireworks on forestlands;
• Exploding targets and tracer ammunition, or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base, are prohibited.

Beginning Wednesday at 12:01 a.m., the following public fire regulations will take effect:

• Smoking while traveling will only be allowed in enclosed vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water and other specifically designated locations;

• Open fires are prohibited which includes campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except at locations deemed a designated campground. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are still allowed;

• Chain saws may not be used between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. during moderate fire danger. During hours outside of this time frame, chain saws may be used but require that the operator have one shovel and one 8-oz or larger fire extinguisher at the work site. A fire watch is also required for one hour after each chainsaw use;

• Cutting, grinding and welding of metal is not allowed between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. during moderate fire danger. These activities will be allowed during hours outside of this time frame only if the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and a water supply is at the job site;

• The mowing of dead or dried grass with power-driven equipment is not allowed between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. during moderate fire danger. This restriction does not include mowing of green lawns, or equipment used for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops;

• Motorized vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, will be allowed only on improved roads free of flammable vegetation. One shovel and one gallon of water, or one 2.5 pound or larger fire extinguisher, is required while traveling in motorized vehicles; all-terrain vehicles and motorcycles must be equipped with one 2.5 pound or larger fire extinguisher.

• Any other spark-emitting internal combustion engine use not specifically mentioned is not allowed between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. during moderate fire danger. Use of any spark-emitting internal combustion engine is allowed outside of this time frame only if the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and a water supply is at the job site;

• Any electric fence controllers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services, and be installed and used in compliance with the fence controller’s instructions for fire safe operation.

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s #FireSeasonpublic restrictions, please call or visit the Southwest Oregon District unit office nearest to you:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr., Grants Pass. (541) 474-3152

Friday, June 16, 2017

ODF Southwest Firefighter Receives ‘2016 Seasonal Firefighter Leadership Award’

Oregon Department of Forestry firefighters routinely run into the face of danger to save others. We protect our communities from wildfire and act as stewards of the land. But, what about working with communities long after a wildfire is out?
This is exactly the outlook and actions of one of our own, Tyler Averyt.
Tyler has given selflessly in support of the agency, the Firewise program and most importantly, the community. Because of his demonstrated passion and commitment to the department, Tyler has been selected as the recipient for the “2016 Seasonal Firefighter Leadership Award” for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
“I’m so proud of the type of firefighter and person Tyler has become. Tyler is one of many high caliber people on our team serving our district and the people of Oregon,” said ODF Southwest District Forester, Dave Larson.
Tyler is a 12-year veteran of the Oregon Department of Forestry. For the past year he has been assigned to a dual role as a Wildland Firefighter and Firewise Coordinator for Josephine County. In this role, Tyler is called upon constantly to do homeowner inspections in order to gain community involvement and interest in becoming a Firewise Community. While informing and assisting residents about reducing the risk of wildland fires on their properties, Tyler is also a fulltime firefighter for the district. He juggles fire calls and Firewise project implementation and planning, year-round.
“He is an employee who is highly motivated, sets goals and seeks out opportunities to accomplish these goals.  He is an outstanding representation of the future of the Oregon Department of Forestry,” said Shelly Hoffer, ODF Southwest Wildland Fire Supervisor.
The department chooses one firefighter throughout the entire state to recognize on an annual basis. We are ecstatic that this year’s honor goes to someone as hardworking as Tyler who has been dedicated to the Southwest Oregon District in Jackson and Josephine Counties since 2006.
“Being able to watch Tyler grow both personally and professionally over the past decade has been remarkable,” said ODF Southwest Assistant District Forester, Tyler McCarty, “I’m so proud of him; I feel like a proud dad.”
Tyler continuously demonstrates a high level of commitment to his training, public education, fire prevention and other agency operations. His allegiance to his fellow firefighters not only supports our department policies, but he works to help others achieve personal goals as well.
“He sets the example day-to-day. He is always the pillar in our agency that people look up to and respect. He helps empower people to succeed,” ODF Southwest Protection Supervisor, Karl Witz.
Tyler is seen as a leader and the “go-to” person for questions. He is skilled in bringing others together to work as a team, recognizing each person’s unique skills and talents, and how those will best contribute to success.
“I appreciate his willingness to support and provide assistance on tasks and projects no matter how big or small they are,” said Kyndra Von Essen, ODF Southwest Wildland Dispatcher.
He constantly goes beyond his normal duties and expectations to make visible improvements that have enhanced the agency’s ability to reduce fire losses and to better serve the community.
“The Firewise community of Forest Hills could not be more pleased to congratulate Tyler Averyt on winning this award. He is so deserving; he has supported us 100% by starting new programs, improving old ones and has an energy level that is unmatched.  He is definitely a spark,” said Ruth and Gene Lambert, Firewise Community members.
Not only does he excel at his day-to-day job, but takes pride in every aspect of his work including fire team assignments that give him the opportunity to face new challenges. In the past year, he served on several fire assignments in various positions, including Task Force Leader, Heavy Equipment Boss and Contract Administrator. He continues to increase his skills and abilities in wildland fire leadership by serving as a Trainee Air Tactical Group Supervisor and working on his task book as a Helicopter Manager. He is always challenging himself and willing to take on anything thrown his way.
Tyler was nominated for this award by his colleagues and supervisor, Shelly Hoffer, Kyndra Von Essen, and Karl Witz. His entire team here at ODF Southwest Oregon district could not be more proud of Tyler and his achievements. We are thrilled to have him as part of the ODF Southwest family.
“The camaraderie is the best part, no words can really describe it. We are a team through and through. Every day is different and comes with a new challenge, and as a team we overcome those challenges together. It’s rewarding to see the impact we can have on our local community,” said Tyler Averyt, the 2016 Seasonal Firefighter Leadership Award recipient.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Reminder: Fire Season Remains in Effect, Debris burning is prohibited

As a reminder, last weekend’s rainfall did not lift fire season restrictions. Fire season went into effect on Sunday, June 4. During fire season, debris burning is unsafe; therefore, it is prohibited. Other prohibited actions during fire season include the use of fireworks, tracer ammunition and exploding targets on ODF-protected lands.

             After a wet winter, the high volume of dead grass and hotter conditions is increasing fire danger on the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District.

            “As things continue to dry out, the abundance of dead grass acts as a fuse for fast moving fires,” said ODF Southwest Oregon District Forester, Dave Larson, “this is one of the many reasons that we take violation of debris burning during fire season very seriously.”

           Since January 1, 2017 ODF Southwest firefighters alongside are partnering agencies have already responded to over 35 wildfires in Jackson and Josephine Counties. Fourteen of those were due to debris burning. 

           “We are asking that residents do not fall into a false sense of security when temperatures cool for a couple days. It only takes one warm, dry or windy day to drive down fuel moisture to a point where grass and other fine fuels will readily carry fire. This is why debris burning remains prohibited,” said Lee Winslow, ODF Southwest Assistant District Forester.

            While outdoor burning of landscape debris by homeowners is no longer allowed, we are asking residents to ensure that they are prepared for wildfires by maintaining a minimum of 100 feet of defensible space around every home and building on their property.

           Here are some tips on how to dispose of yard waste without burning:
  • §  Chipping
  • §  Composting/Mulching
  • §  Curbside Pickup
  • §  Greenwaste Facility
  • §  Biomass Energy Facility

            Eliminating debris burning not only reduces the chance of fire spread, but it could also prevent you from receiving a citation, or even a bill for the cost of fire suppression. While a citation ranges from $110 to $435; the cost of fire suppression can quickly become thousands of dollars.

            If you know of someone doing an illegal debris burn in your area, report it. Your awareness and cooperation with us can help prevent the next wildfire.

          For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season restrictions and regulations, or to report a fire, please call or visit the Southwest Oregon District unit office nearest to you:
·         Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. (541) 664-3328
·         Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr., Grants Pass. (541) 474-3152

         Fire season information is also available online at our Facebook page: @ODFSouthwest and our website: www.swofire.com.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Fire Season on ODF-Protected Lands Begins Sunday

Fire season on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Southwest Oregon District begins Sunday, June 4, at 12:01 a.m. The fire danger level will be “low” (green) and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) will be 1 (one). Lands affected by this declaration include state, private, county, city and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

“Temperatures are starting to rise, our vegetation is drying out and summer weather patterns are arriving,” said ODF District Forester, Dave Larson. “We never know what a fire season may bring, but the last several years demonstrate our area’s potential for wildfires.”

Beginning Sunday, the burning of debris piles and the use of burn barrels for burning debris will no longer be allowed in Jackson and Josephine counties. Other fire season restrictions include the use of exploding targets, tracer ammunition and fireworks.

The 2017 fire season may be another active one. A good snowpack in the Cascade Range and the Siskiyou Mountains recharged many of the southwest Oregon region’s reservoirs, but may have little positive effect on wildfire activity in the district, most of which covers low-elevation grass and brush lands and mid-elevation forests. Residual snowpack is at higher elevations on national forest and national park lands.

“While the wet winter may help the higher elevations during the start of fire season, the grasses in the lower elevations are already beginning to lose their moisture. By the time we hit August in the southwestern portion of the state, we are still expecting to have an average fire season which means responding to roughly 6 to 10 fires per day,” said ODF Protection Supervisor, Bill Smith.

Last year, fire season started on June 3 and ended October 13 lasting a total of 133 days. A total of 209 fires burned on lands protected by the Southwest Oregon District, and blackened 726 acres. More than 200 of those fires were started by people and six fires by lightning in 2016. According to the 10-year average of fires on the district, 230 fires may burn more than 5,600 acres during fire season.
For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, please call or visit the Southwest Oregon District unit office nearest to you:

·         Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. (541) 664-3328
·         Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr., Grants Pass. (541) 474-3152


Fire season information is also available online at our Facebook page: @ODFSouthwest and
our website: www.swofire.com.