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Weed abatement rules in effect with fire season start

Fire season starts today on Oregon Department of Forestry lands in southwest Oregon, and Medford’s weed abatement ordinance, intended to reduce vegetation fires, returns with it.

The ordinance states that any property with uncontrolled/unmaintained grass, weeds, brush or any like vegetation over 10 inches tall creates a fire hazard that must be abated.

“We are concerned because we’re in drought conditions. Jackson County ranges from moderate to extreme, so that always concerns us,” said Medford Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Greg Kleinberg. “It doesn’t mean we’ll have a terrible wildfire season, but it means the threat exists.”

Snowpack in the Rogue and Umpqua basins was at 49% of the normal median amount, according to data released Thursday by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The Oregon Department of Forestry announced that fire season would start today on the 1.8 million acres of public and private lands it protects in Jackson and Josephine counties after dozens of April fires, many sparked by out of control burn piles.

Medford firefighters had to respond to at least seven similar fires last month, Kleinberg said.

“Right now some of (the unmaintained vegetation) is kind of green, but it’s drying out really quickly,” Kleinberg said.

Exceptions to Medford’s ordinance include:

  • Ornamental shrubs, bushes or other like vegetation maintained and kept in a landscaped yard or space
  • Agricultural crops, or grass or other like vegetation grown and maintained for pasturage that is fenced and properly zoned
  • Natural areas within a Medford public park

Under Medford’s city code, “All grass, weeds, brush, bushes or any like vegetation posing a fire hazard shall be disked, cut, or removed,” according to the city of Medford website.

Properties larger than an acre, subdivisions, and unmaintained agricultural properties have additional guidelines, including dimensions for constructing fire breaks. All guidelines can be viewed at www.ci.medford.or.us/CodePrint.asp?CodeID=4399.

Reach web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPfeil.