Fire season ends after 115 days

Saturday marked the end of an "episodic" fire season, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The ODF announced the end of a fire season that started July 1 and lasted 115 days. It was a fire season that moved in fits and starts, ODF spokesman Brian Ballou said.

"We had some long periods where there were no wildland fires and then we had some weeks where we were chasing a lot of smaller fires," Ballou said. "It was an episodic season for us."

The largest fire of the season was the 315-acre Blackwell Hill fire that broke out east of Gold Hill on Sept. 12. Southwest Oregon District crews responded to 156 fires that burned a total of 459 acres. Fifty-seven of the fires were caused by lightning and 99 fires were caused by people, Ballou said.

"Everything lined up perfectly for the Blackwell fire," Ballou said. "It started in a spot where there was a lot of fuel and there was plenty of wind to push it to the top of a ridge. But then it burned out."

Ballou said many of the lighting-sparked fires in July and August could have been much larger, but it so happened that several of them started close to roads.

"It made them easier to get to, and we had plenty of manpower to get on top of them quickly," Ballou said.

The major fire event of the season was the spectacular blaze that burned 11 homes in Ashland on Aug. 24, Ballou said.

Ballou said the rainy June might have played a part in keeping fire season relatively low key this year.

"Most years we have one or two fires of at least 1,000 acres in size," Ballou said. "But nothing approached that size this year. It could have been because we had such a wet spring, but we also had periods of heat that made for dry conditions later in the summer. Maybe we just got lucky nothing big started during those periods."

Woody debris pile and barrel burning is now allowed on ODF-protected lands. However, open burning is regulated for air quality. Before lighting your pile or burn barrel, call the open burning advisory number for your county. For Jackson County information, call 541-776-7007; for Josephine County, call 541-476-9663.

Some cities do not allow open burning, and many rural fire protection districts require a burning permit. Contact your local structural fire service provider to obtain any necessary permits before burning.

Information about fire season restrictions is available online at

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail him at

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