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State warns that fire danger is still a threat

Despite the cooler temperature and decreasing daylight hours, the threat of new wildfire starts is still a threat to Southern Oregon, and the Oregon Department of Forestry is urging hunters to take the proper precautions as the season kicks off.

Agency officials said in a news release that hunters should be mindful of extinguishing their campfires completely before leaving camp, as vegetation remains dry from the drought-pocked summer. Fires that are completely out should be cool to the touch. Campfires should be isolated from vegetation, especially dry grasses and brush, with at least five feet of mineral soils surrounding the fire pit and 15 feet of vertical space above the flames. ODF officials recommend surrounding the pit with rocks or a metal ring.

While walking through wilderness areas, ODF said hunters could come across areas where wildfires burned over the summer. Dead, blackened trees and snags could still be standing in those areas. Many of those trees are not stable, as the trunks' integrity has been weakened by fire. This means they could fall over at any minute and injure passersby. Hunters in these areas should be very aware of their surroundings and of the risks in walking through those burned areas.

"Keep your eyes up and scan the trees, listen for falling or cracking noises, and avoid areas dense with burned trees if possible, since these unsteady snags can be fatal," officials said in the release.

Additionally, anyone heading into the woods should also be aware of still-smoldering pockets of heat in the burned areas, which can still cause burns. These hot spots spew out white ash or steam and often linger around roots or stumps. 

Outdoor enthusiasts should not camp in any burned areas because of the danger of falling trees and hot spots.

ODF asks anyone who sees smoke from an old burn to report it to either the Medford office at 541-664-3328 or the Grants Pass office at 541-474-3152.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.