Fire season arrives in Southern Oregon

A spate of hot weather coupled with increasing numbers of grass fires prompted the Oregon Department of Forestry to start the 2012 fire season on Wednesday in Jackson and Josephine counties.

That means debris burning will be prohibited, except in burn barrels. To use a burn barrel, residents must have a burn permit from the ODF. All burn-barrel use in the two counties will be prohibited beginning July 1.

"We are picking up grass fires nearly every day now — the primary cause is backyard burning," said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the department's Southern Oregon District. "Once we get into that pattern, it's time to start fire season."

Fire danger iss expected to jump to moderate this week.

This year's start of fire season falls within the normal range, he said. Last year, it began on July 1.

The department's firefighters protect private, county, state and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.

Although cooler weather is in the forecast for a couple of days, the grass and brush already are dry, officials said. A fire on the valley floor or a southern slope can spread quickly into forested areas or threaten structures, they note.

"Dry grass and weeds are the No. 1 carrier of wildfires here," Ballou said.

He urged local residents who live in rural areas to reduce grass, weeds and brush around structures to decrease the threat should a wildfire ignite.

"There are no restrictions against mowing," he said of the beginning of fire season. "We encourage people to keep at it to reduce the fire danger."

Beginning Wednesday, the restrictions include a ban on the use of fireworks on forestlands. Commercial operations, such as timber harvesting conducted on forestlands, are required to have fire-suppression equipment on the job site at all times. A watchman also must be provided.

On the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial, camp fires must be in fire pans or on a fire blanket that is placed on sand or gravel bars between the river and the high-water mark and away from areas with flammable vegetation.

In addition, smoking will be restricted to sand and gravel bars between the river and the high-water mark. Smoking also is allowed in boats and rafts while on the river.

All travelers along that section of the river must carry a shovel and a bucket with a capacity of at least 1 gallon.

For more information about the fire season regulations, see

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at

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