Fire officials warn of fire risk after open burns escape

Fire season may have flamed out in Jackson and Josephine counties but fire danger hasn't died away, warns the Oregon Department of Forestry.

An unusually dry October coupled with in attention by local residents burning debris piles has resulted in numerous escaped fires in the past week, said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the ODF's Southwest Oregon District which blankets the two counties.

"Whenever there is a burn day, we make two or three runs to put out escaped fires," said the veteran wild lands firefighter. "One of the most common denominators is that they aren't monitoring the fire like they should."

He noted there was a 7-acre grass fire near Williams Tuesday afternoon, two grass fires near Shady Cove on Monday, and a 3-acre grass fire near the Ashland airport late last week, all sparked by debris burn piles.

"We haven't had much rain so far this fall," he said. "It is getting pretty dry out there. A lot of stuff is still cured from the summer."

The Medford area has only received .65 of an inch of rainfall for October, about half its normal amount for the month, according to the National Weather Service office at the Medford airport.

Until the rains arrive in earnest, a homeowner should have a charged garden hose on hand when burning a debris pile, fire officials said. A shovel and a rake also are handy to keep a fire from spreading, they note.

In addition, they caution that burn piles should be located away from where adjacent vegetation, structures or other burnable debris could catch fire.

The open space around a burn pile should be twice the pile's height, while no overhead wires or branches should be closer than three times the height of the pile, they added.

Finally, never leave a debris pile fire unattended, they note.

Before igniting a burn pile, residents need to call the county burn line to make sure it is a burn day. In Jackson County, the number is 541-776-7007. In Josephine County, call 541- 476-9663. In addition, some fire districts require a burning permit.

For tips about wildfire prevention, check out

— Paul Fattig

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