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BLM to burn 7,000 acres after rains

Pile burning reduces hazardous fuels in and around communities at risk

Citing forest health and fire hazard reduction, the Bureau of Land Management plans to burn nearly 7,000 acres in its Medford District this fall and early winter.

That includes about 6,400 acres of pile burning and another 300 acres of underburning ' a low intensity fire on the forest floor to reduce ground fuels while protecting trees.

However, the burning season, which began shortly after the heavy rains earlier this month, have temporarily been placed on hold until wet weather returns.

This dry weather we've had lately has been slowing us down, explained district spokeswoman Jeanne Klein.

We won't be doing any more until we get some more rain, she added. It has really dried out quite a bit out there.

Although the rainfall is near normal for the season, it hasn't rained in the region for several weeks, creating dry conditions that could cause a fire to escape, officials said.

Under the auspices of the National Fire Plan, much of the focus is to reduce hazardous fuels in and around communities at risk, Klein indicated. The national plan identified 26 communities at wildfire risk in interior southwestern Oregon.

The district's goal is to burn some 23,000 acres this year.

In addition to reducing fire hazard, the majority of the burning will focus on restoring fire-dependent ecosystems while some burning will remove slash created from forest management activities.

Handpile burning will occur across the district, including roughly 1,000 acres in non-commercial oak woodlands and shrublands and 2,400 acres in commercial timber stands that were thinned in the Sterling Creek, Forest Creek, Little Applegate, Tyler Creek and Thompson Creek drainages. Most of that will be in the Sterling and Forest creek drainages.

Another 1,000 acres of handpiles will be burned near the communities of Galice, Williams, Rogue River, Grants Pass, Merlin, Cave Junction and Wilderville. Smoke may be visible from these communities.

In the northern portion of the district, about 500 acres will be burned north of the community of Rogue River off West Evans Creek Road, in the Salt Creek drainage off Highway 140 and near Butte Falls.

Another 1,500 acres of handpile burning will occur in the Grave Creek and middle fork of Cow Creek watersheds.

The underburning will occur northeast of Galice and west of Wilderville.

Daily updated information about the project is available by calling 541-618-2354 or 800-267-3126. Recorded updates are made by 9 a.m. on each day that burning is planned.