A pedestrian rushes across Riverside Avenue in Medford Friday during a pouring rain. Jim Craven 9/28/07 - Jim Craven

Fires remain a threat

Rain may have pelted Jackson and Josephine counties Friday but don't even think about firing up that burn barrel or brush pile yet.

Until adequate moisture dampens the potential for local wildfires, fire danger remains at the "high" level, stressed Brian Ballou, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest District that blankets the two counties.

"We are easing up on restrictions, rung by rung," he said. "But we want to keep the lid on open burning for the foreseeable future."

The problem, he said, is that a brief drying trend with windy conditions could quickly increase fire danger. More rain for a longer period is needed to snuff out the fire season, he added.

Fire season typically ends in mid-October in the region. The agency's firefighting crews protect state, private, county and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.

"Last year we went to the first week of November," he said. "It might be on the front end of October this year but we'll have to wait and see how this weather pattern plays out."

The snow level dropped to 4,500 feet Friday afternoon in the mountains ringing the Rogue Valley, according to the National Weather Service.

Those staffing fire lookouts, including Soda Mountain, Halls Point and White Point, all reported snow sticking on the ground Friday, as did a spokesman for Crater Lake National Park. Snow fell on Highway 140 at Lake of the Woods and on the Siskiyou Summit.

No rain was predicted today in Jackson and Josephine counties but showers were expected to resume Sunday and continue through Thursday, the weather service reported. The weather service recorded .37 inches of rain from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at the Medford airport.

Because of the damper weather, restrictions have been dropped on power equipment use by the public. That means equipment such as chain saws can be used throughout the day, although it's recommended that a shovel and water be kept nearby in dry grass or forested areas.

However, restrictions on open burning, campfires and off-road vehicle use remain in effect. No open burning is permitted. Campfires are allowed only in designated campgrounds. Motorized vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, are not allowed on unimproved roads.

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

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