Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Fire Season on ODF-Protected Lands in SW Oregon Starts June 3

Fire season begins Friday, June 3, at 12:01 a.m. on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District. Lands affected by this declaration include state, private, county, city, and Bureau of Land Management forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

The public regulated use fire danger level will be “moderate” (blue) and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level will be 1 (one).

Last year, fire season started on June 5 and ended October 28. A total of 255 fires burned on lands protected by the Southwest Oregon District, and blackened 347 acres. More than 200 of those fires were started by people and 53 fires by lightning. According to the 10-year average of fires on the district, 230 fires may burn more than 5,600 acres during fire season.

The 2016 fire season may be another very active one. A good snowpack in the Cascade Range and the Siskiyou Mountains recharged most 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 spring was reasonably wet, it was also 6-8 degrees warmer than normal. Abundant grass and weed growth across the district will provide plenty of fuel for wildfires, once the vegetation fully cures. In addition, tree mortality from the drought has left numerous dead and dying trees scattered across the landscape. These may moderately increase the severity of forest fires in some parts of the district.

Beginning Friday, the burning of debris piles and the use of burn barrels for burning debris will no longer be allowed. Other public regulated use restrictions on ODF-protected forestlands include:

  • No fireworks;
  • No tracer ammunition or exploding targets;
  • No sky lanterns.

Under Industrial Fire Precaution Level 1 on ODF-protected lands, commercial operations, such as timber harvesting conducted on forestlands, will be required to have fire suppression equipment on the job site at all times. A watchman must also be provided.

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Spring Cleanup Should Prevent Wildfires, Not Start Them

Many Oregonians have good intentions when they set out to eliminate the fire hazards around the home. But the way they go about it may actually start a wildfire. Using the right tool in the right place at the right time is crucial during clean-up. Get any of these wrong, and the outcome could be disastrous.

In late July 2015, the Stouts Creek Fire in SW Oregon ignited, eventually growing to more than 26,000 acres and costing millions of dollars to put out. The blaze was caused by a resident mowing dry grass.

Spring is the time to clean up excess vegetation, not during the summer when fuels are dry and susceptible to a spark from a steel blade striking a rock or emitted by a hot exhaust system. Improper equipment use ranks as the No. 2 cause of wildfires on state-protected lands in Oregon.

FOLLOW CURRENT FIRE RESTRICTIONS – Check with the local Oregon Department of Forestry district or forest protective association to learn if there are any current restrictions or regulations on the use of internal combustion engines (lawn mowers, chainsaws, weed trimmers). Some areas may restrict their use depending on weather and vegetation conditions.

MOW BEFORE 10 A.M. – The best time of day to use gas-powered equipment is early morning, when the humidity is higher and temperatures are lower. Never mow when it’s windy or excessively dry.

USE THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB – Lawn mowers are designed to mow lawns, not weeds or tall, dry grass. Use a weed trimmer with plastic line, vs. metal blades that can strike rocks, create sparks and start a wildfire. Remove rocks in the area before you begin operating any power equipment to avoid sparks.

ALL PORTABLE GAS-POWERED EQUIPMENT MUST HAVE AN APPROVED SPARK ARRESTER – In wildland areas, an escaped carbon particle from a muffler may be all it takes to start a fire. This includes cars, tractors, harvesters, chainsaws, weed trimmers and mowers. Keep the exhaust system in proper working order, spark arresters clear of carbon build-up, and the engine free of oil and dust. Allow equipment to cool before refilling with gasoline. Use the recommended grade of fuel and don’t top it off.

Wildfire awareness, preparedness and prevention are crucial this year. Learn more at: www.keeporegongreen.org, and be a part of the solution.