It's hot and dry, but a little too early for fire season

It sure seems drier than normal but it hasn't stopped people from burning. It seemed like the local hills were on fire this weekend. With this heat, doesn't that mean fire season is about to start?

— C. M., Medford

You are right, C.M., that we have had a dry winter and spring and that there is burning going on — but fire season isn't here yet. Chin up, two out of three ain't bad.

The National Weather Service office at the Medford airport reports that only 9.97 inches of rain have fallen since the wet season began Sept. 1. The normal rainfall for this time of year is 15.21 inches, making us more than five inches behind. Things certainly are on the dry side on the valley floor.

On the positive side, Crater Lake and Mount Ashland have 102 inches and 98 inches of snow on the ground respectively, putting them both near normal for the season.

Much of the smoke you've been seeing in the local hills is from U.S. Bureau of Land Management's understory burning. The BLM's Medford District is burning about 2,450 acres this spring, using controlled burns.

Of course, there are invariably those days when plans go awry and smoke goes where it isn't supposed to go, causing not a little angst.

For a recording about the BLM's spring burning program that's updated daily, call the interagency prescribed fire information number at 618-2354 or 1-800-267-3126.

As for fire season, we checked with our man Brian Ballou over at the Oregon Department of Forestry office in Central Point. It's still too early for fire season to start, he reports, but he said ODF firefighters have been responding to the occasional grass fire lately.

Officials remind anyone thinking about burning that brush pile out back to call 776-7007 to find out whether it is a burn day.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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