Fire season over in Jackson County

The 2009 fire season in Jackson and Josephine counties has been rained out.

Tuesday's rain, coupled with cooler temperatures and rain forecasted for the rest of the week, brought an end to the season effective today.

"But it's still somewhat dry in some spots — there is always potential for a grass fire if people aren't careful," said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District.

"We've been monitoring the rainfall in the two-county area," he added late Tuesday afternoon. "It was heavy in the Applegate and in the Grants Pass area but not so much in the Medford area. There is still the possibility of a fire."

The U.S. National Weather Service forecast for Jackson and eastern Josephine counties calls for rainy periods through Monday. Four inches of wet snow was reported on the ground at the Crater Lake National Park headquarters late Tuesday afternoon.

The largest fire in the district this year was the 633-acre Deer Ridge Fire that erupted immediately east of Medford on Sept. 21, Ballou said. In Josephine County, the biggest blaze was the 48-acre Lone Mountain Road Fire near O'Brien in the Illinois Valley on Aug. 24.

All told, the agency responded to 120 wildfires in Jackson County that burned a total of 1,073 acres. In Josephine County, 123 acres were burned by the 116 fires.

"It was a very vigorous summer from the standpoint of the number of actual fires," Ballou said, while noting the acreage burned was below normal.

"Overall, we had higher than normal lighting-caused fires but the grand total burned (from lightning) was only about 60 acres," he said. "This was another year where interagency cooperation worked extremely well."

That cooperation was put to the test by the Deer Ridge Fire and the 145-acre Siskiyou fire on the south end of Ashland, which broke out within hours of each other, he said.

"But we had mobilized the bombers and helicopters and ground crews and were able to parcel them out as needed," he said. "It came out as good as could be expected."

The fire season, which began June 19, normally ends around mid-October.

The end of the season means all of the agency's fire restrictions are lifted on lands protected by the district. They include 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands in the counties.

However, open burning is regulated for air quality in all of Jackson County and in the Rogue Basin Open Burn Control Area in Josephine County. Before igniting a woody debris pile or the contents of a burn barrel, area residents should call the open-burning advisory number in Jackson County at 776-7007 or Josephine County at 476-WOOD.

Many cities in the area do not allow open burning. In some rural areas, fire protection districts require a burning permit.

Information about fire season restrictions is available online at and at the ODF's district offices at 664-3328 in Central Point and 474-3152 in Merlin.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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