Extreme fire danger imposes new limits

Residents of Jackson and Josephine counties need to get mowing and chainsaw work done before 10 a.m., following just-announced fire season restrictions by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Today the ODF raised the forest fire danger to "extreme" for all of southwest Oregon. Two wildfires in Josephine County last week, along with temperatures reaching near triple-digit intensity, necessitated the change.

"It was a clear sign that it was time to raise the fire danger level," said Brian Ballou, ODF spokesman.

At the extreme fire danger level, chainsaw use and mowing dead or dry grass with power-driven equipment is banned between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. The restrictions do not apply to green lawns or agricultural crops.

Chainsaw users must have an ax, shovel, and fire extinguisher that is eight ounces or larger. A one-hour fire watch is required following mowing or chainsaw work.

Cutting and grinding metal is also restricted between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Debris burning, and the use of fireworks, exploding targets, tracer ammunition is prohibited. Smoking is prohibited except on improved roads.

Greg Kleinberg, Medford Fire-Rescue fire marshal, said the restrictions also apply within city limits, depending on where homes and businesses lie.

"If it's green grass, it's fine," Kleinberg said. "In general, in the city down in the valley, mowing grass and doing landscape work is not a problem."

He added area residents should be mindful of surrounding terrain, such as nearby fields and a home or business's proximity to the eastern hillsides.

"That's when we really want people to consistently follow the rules that ODF put out," Kleinberg said.

The new restrictions come on the tail of last week's Pacifica fire, which burned 500 acres near Williams, and destroyed a home and several outbuildings and vehicles.

The National Weather Service reported today that daytime high temperatures will range from 99 to 102 this week, adding to the urgency. Temperatures should start to see a slight drop by the weekend, cooling down to the high 80s range by Monday, agency officials reported.

"It's going to cool off, but it's not going to cool off dramatically, and it's going to be gradual," said meteorologist Marc Spilde.

Even then, the fire danger will remain in place until fall.

"We're going to need some rain, and, I mean some very serious rain, before we reverse this fire danger," Ballou said.

— Ryan Pfeil

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