Forest rules tighten as fire danger spikes

With an already parched southwestern Oregon continuing to simmer under a sweltering summer sun, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest officials are increasing public use restrictions on the forest beginning Monday.

The added restrictions limit the public's use of campfires, cigarettes, off-road vehicles and other internal combustion engines.

In addition, partial "hoot owl" restrictions for industrial activity on the national forest and on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry in Jackson and Josephine counties will go into effect that day. ODF firefighters protect U.S. Bureau of Land Management, state, county and private lands.

A partial hoot owl — known as Industrial Fire Precaution Level II — prohibits blasting, welding, cable yarding or the use of power saws except at loading sites from 1 to 8 p.m. The restrictions apply to all contractors and permit holders.

"The recent hot, dry weather has accelerated drying of the fuels in the forest, and the forecast is for this pattern to continue," said Syndy Zerr, assistant fire staff officer on the forest.

"Our fire danger indices are continuing to climb, necessitating increasing both our industrial and public fire restrictions," Zerr added. "These precautions, and the fire-safe behavior of our industrial operators and general public, will reduce the chance of a human-caused wildfire on the forest."

Beginning Monday across the forest, campfires will be restricted to designated recreation sites and only in approved fire rings, fireplaces or stoves at those sites.

However, commercial stoves fired by liquid fuel or propane are permitted. The campfire restrictions do not apply to either the Sky Lakes Wilderness or the Rogue Umpqua Divide Wilderness.

Smoking will not be permitted except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a designated recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is cleared of all flammable material. Smoking is also permitted within the forest boundaries while aboard a watercraft on a river or lake.

When it comes to internal combustion engines, they can only be used in a motor vehicle operated on a developed road or within designated parking areas. However, the Prospect Off-Highway Vehicle Trail/Road system is exempt from the restrictions.

Recreational suction dredges must remain in the middle of the stream for one hour after being shut down. They must have a certified compliant spark arrester and not be used after 1 p.m.

Finally, no welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame is allowed.

Down on the wild and scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial, the following fire prevention restrictions are in effect:

  • Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in boats on the water, and on sand or gravel bars that lie between water and high water marks and are free of vegetation.
  • A shovel and a one-gallon or larger bucket are required of all travelers.
  • All open fires are prohibited, including campfires, cooking fires and warming fires. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels, and charcoal fires for cooking and built in raised fire pans, will be allowed on sand or gravel bars that lie between water and high water marks and are free of vegetation. Ashes must be hauled out.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at

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