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Water trucks ready to snuff out I-5 grass fires

This week I saw a water truck accompanying mowers cutting grass along I-5 near the town of Rogue River. The truck had a sign on it that said "Water." Are water trucks always with the mowers, or have they been added because of the mower-sparked fire along I-5 on June 10?

— No name given

After the fire, Oregon Department of Transportation district management required that all mowing along I-5 have a water truck on standby and be finished by 1 p.m., said ODOT Spokesman Gary Leaming.

The eight-acre fire along the edge of the interstate near Hugo north of Grants Pass was likely caused by a spark from a mower's blade striking a rock or other hard object, ODOT officials believe.

One I-5 lane was closed as area firefighters safeguarded nearby structures and stopped the fire.

The incident occurred a few days before the Oregon Department of Forestry elevated the local fire danger level to high.

According to fire regulations during high danger conditions, mowing dead or dry grass with power-driven equipment is banned from 1 to 8 p.m. The ban does not apply to the mowing of green grass or to agricultural crop growing and harvesting activities.

Leaming said ODOT typically has a water truck accompany mowing operations during the fire season in Southern Oregon.

At the time of the June 10 fire along I-5, the Grants Pass area maintenance crew had only one water truck available. It was accompanying a mower working along Highway 199 in the Selma and Kerby area southwest of Grants Pass. Neighboring homes were closer to the mowing operations in that area, Leaming said.

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