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Rain eases fire risk

But officials say warm weather due soon will boost the danger again

Recent rainfall has put a damper on local fire danger, prompting the Oregon Department of Forestry to ease restrictions on outside activities in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Residents can now cut dry grass, operate chain saws and use other power-driven equipment such as backhoes up until — p.m. each day and after 8 p.m.

Until officials dropped fire danger from extreme down to high on Monday, those activities were banned.

Wet and cool weather has also helped firefighters snuff out dozens of wildfires sparked by Friday's lightning storms.

— The Cove fire off of Dead Indian Memorial Road, the largest local fire at more than 700 acres, was declared contained Monday evening.More than 50 fires had been reported in the two counties, but are snuffed or being mopped up by firefighters.

Rainfall since Sunday morning coupled with today's expected accumulation has reduced the fire danger, said Dennis Turco, ODF fire prevention specialist for the area.

Up to a half-inch of rain is expected to fall on the area overnight and today, Turco observed, citing National Weather Service forecasts.

Things are looking really good now, he said. With the fires, we had a couple of things in our favor: the availability of resources and the rainfall we got.

That doesn't mean fire danger has died away for the year, he stressed.

A high-pressure ridge is expected to bring hot, dry weather back to the region by the end of the week.

We're expecting temperatures above normal again by the weekend or early next week, he said. We may not get back up to extreme fire danger, but there will still be a potential for more wildfires.

As a result, residents need to continue to be cautious, he said.

Activities that are still prohibited include all outdoor burning, campfires outside of designated areas (such as county and state parks) and fireworks in areas of flammable vegetation (such as dry grass and brush), as well as on all federal lands.

The continued ban also prohibits the use of motorized vehicles off improved roads and smoking in wildland areas except in enclosed vehicles while on improved roads.

ODF firefighters protect private, county, state and U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands.

The local fire season usually ends in mid-October.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at