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BLM slates prescribed burns for this spring

Some 7,500 acres of brush and forestland will go up in smoke this spring in Jackson and Josephine counties.

The spring fires will be part of a program by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires around rural communities come the dry summer months.

Both agencies are addressing priority needs of the area by treating public lands that are in close proximity to residential and commercial areas, explained Tom Murphy, the BLM Medford District fire officer, in a prepared statement.

This will reduce the potential for large, high-intensity wildfires which may threaten neighborhood homes and communities, he said.

The goal is to treat overgrown forests, the result of a century of fire suppression, to make them more fire resistant, officials said.

— The prescribed burns are controlled fires that include either understory burning along the forest floor or burning handpiles of woody debris, brush and small saplings. The prescribed burns don't harm the larger trees.

In addition to protecting natural resources, the prescribed fires remove ladder fuels that could otherwise ignite the bigger trees during a summer fire, officials said.

Firefighting crews and equipment are on hand when the fires are burning.

However, the prescribed burns occur only when weather conditions and fuel moisture content allow for safe operations. The ground must be wet, the humidity high and temperatures low.

The agencies work closely with Oregon's Smoke Management Office which determines when weather conditions are suitable for adequate smoke dispersal.

The BLM, which plans to burn nearly 5,000 acres as weather conditions permit, hopes to conduct underburning on 1,000 acres near Ruch and 100 acres in the Thompson Creek drainage in the Applegate Valley.

Other prescribed burning projects include 150 acres between Williams and Murphy; up to 1,100 acres near Merlin, Hugo and Grants Pass; 80 acres near Selma; 340 acres near Wolf Creek; 320 acres near the west fork of Cow Creek areas; 250 acres near Placer Road and Whitehorse Creek; and 270 acres eight miles west of Glendale along the Mount Reuben Road.

The Forest Service planned burning include about 400 acres in the Applegate and Ashland ranger districts and 23 acres of forest thinning and about 150 acres of wildlife forage enhancement burning in the Butte Falls and Prospect ranger districts.

Prescribes burns are also scheduled for the Galice and Illinois valley ranger districts.

Daily updated recorded fire information about BLM burns can be obtained by calling 618-2354 or 800-267-3126. Forest Service prescribed burn information is available by contacting that agency's nearest office.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at BLM slates prescribed burns for this spring"pfattig@mailtribune.com.