Grass fires keep firefighters busy

Two grass fires that flared up Tuesday at opposite ends of Jackson County showed that even though fire season is over, it's still important to be careful with fire.

Oregon Department of Forestry crews were kept busy moving from one small fire to another, said ODF spokesman Brian Ballou.

"We had a bit of a flurry in the mid-afternoon, but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle quickly," Ballou said.

The largest blaze sparked on Neil Creek Road just south of Ashland in the early afternoon. The fire moved quickly though grass and blackberry bushes toward Interstate 5.

ODF firefighters had to navigate a series of fences to reach the fire, which had grown to 3.5 acres before they were able to douse the flames, Ballou said.

"The fences in the area caused us a bit of a problem," Ballou said. "But there was no significant damage, except some fence posts burned."

The second significant fire was reported in the Evans Creek area along Pleasant Creek Road near Wimer.

The flames chewed through about three acres of dry grass before ODF engines arrived. No homes or outbuildings were threatened, Ballou said.

Wind gusts that neared 10 mph caused both fires to spread quickly, Ballou said. ODF crews spent the rest of the day chasing reports of smoke that turned out to be controlled burns.

Fire season officially ended Oct. 10 in Jackson and Josephine counties, which opened the door to debris burning on days when weather and local ordinances permit.

Most rural fire districts require residents to obtain free, and often open-ended, permits that outline the procedures and limitations for burning yard trimmings, leaves and brush. Generally, no paper products, garbage or other potentially toxic materials may be burned in barrels or piles.

Ballou said problems arise on warm, sunny fall days when people start a debris fire in their back yard or field and then leave the area.

"We've had people leave for the grocery store after starting a controlled burn and come back home to see fire engines in their yards," Ballou said.

Open burning is never allowed within the city limits of Medford, Ashland, Central Point, Talent, Eagle Point and Jacksonville. Outdoor burning ends Nov. 1 within the county's Air Quality Maintenance Area, which blankets the Rogue Valley floor and nearby hills.

Before burning, call 776-7007 to check whether the weather permits enough ventilation to allow burning.

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

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