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Despite rain, fire danger still high

Mother Nature may have dampened the woods in Jackson and Josephine counties, but state forestry officials caution that fire season is far from over.

“We’re going to stay at the high fire danger for now,” said Greg Alexander, assistant forester in Medford for the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District, which includes the two counties.

“With the recent rain, some areas got a decent amount, but some got only a little,” Alexander said. “The fire danger is still there.”

That means restrictions such as bans on campfires in undeveloped campgrounds and outdoor burning remain in effect, he said.

The recent cooler weather prompted the forestry department to ease restrictions on industrial operations such as timber harvesting, and precautions were lowered to what’s called Level 1, he observed.

However, commercial operations on state-protected lands in the two counties are required to have fire suppression equipment at the job site 24 hours a day and provide a fire watch, he noted.

Fire season in the district usually ends around mid-October, although the exact time varies each year depending on when fall rains begin in earnest.

The department’s firefighters protect state, county and private forest land in the two counties, as well as lands overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Rifle-hunting season for deer begins locally on Saturday, and the agency is urging hunters to be cautious in the woods.

“We want to remind people that, because it has been so dry this summer, things are still very dry out there,” he said, noting that more rain will be needed to reduce the fire danger.

The National Weather Service office in Medford has forecast showers Friday through Monday but Alexander said a substantial amount of rain would be needed to snuff out the fire season.

“It has been a busy year for us,” Alexander said of the fire season. “We’ve had a lot of 100-degree weather, a lot of dry weather. And we started out a little behind in rainfall.”

For more information, contact the ODF office in Central Point at 664-3328 or in Grants Pass at 474-3152. For detailed information about current restrictions, visit the Web site at: www.swofire.oregon.gov.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.