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Fire season starts Friday

Staff reports

Fire season starts Friday on forest and brush lands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Open burning will no longer be allowed until the season ends, usually in the fall. Open burning includes debris piles, ditch burning and any form of backyard burning.

However, burn barrels can still be used until June 30, providing the resident has a permit from the Oregon Department of Forestry and one from the local structural fire protection district, if the latter is required.

The fire danger level will be "moderate," and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level will be 1. Firefighters from the ODF protect 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city and BLM lands in the two counties.

Local fire season usually begins in the first two weeks of June.

The decision to begin the annual fire restrictions was made after the ODF consulted with local fire district officials as well as those from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, said Brian Ballou, spokesman for the ODF's Southwest Oregon District.

With the spring rains, green grass is springing up, providing fuel which will quickly dry out under the summer sun, Ballou said.

Calls reporting escaped open fires are also increasing, he said. The district has had more than 35 lightning-caused wildfires so far this spring, an unusually high number for this time of year, he added.

With the start of fire season, campers on the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial can only have fires in fire pans or on fire blankets on sand or gravel bars between the river and the high water mark, in areas that are naturally free of vegetation.

Smokers must also stay in that zone or in boats and rafts on the river.

Fireworks will be prohibited. Travelers must carry a shovel and a bucket with at a least a one-gallon capacity.

Commercial logging operations will be required to have fire suppression equipment and a watchman on the job site.

For information about fire season regulations in Jackson County, call the ODF's Medford office at 664-3328. In Josephine County, call the Grants Pass office at 474-3152. Details are also available at www.swofire.oregon.gov.