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City: Prepare yards now for fire season

Property owners in Medford need to get cracking on their mowing and weeding.

Medford’s summer weeds and grass ordinance will take effect a month earlier than normal this year, starting May 1 instead of June 1 as a means of lessening fire risk.

Starting Wednesday, any property with weeds, grass, brush “or any like vegetation over a height of 10 inches” must be trimmed.

“There’s a shorter window of opportunity to mow weeds,” said Medford Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Greg Kleinberg. “Between the time people are noticed ... and sometime probably in July, it’s a total shutdown of equipment. When it gets to be higher extreme (temperatures), there’s no more mowing at some point. So this will give people more time to get it done.”

Home owners found in violation face a fine of up to $250. If the city orders the hazardous vegetation removed the property owner will also be responsible for the cost plus a 30% administrative fee.

Exceptions include ornamental shrubs, bushes or other vegetation maintained and kept in a landscaped yard or place, any crop grown and maintained for agricultural purposes, grass or other like vegetation grown and maintained for pasturage on property fenced and appropriately zoned, and any “natural areas” within a public city park.

Kleinberg pointed to a September 2009 wildfire in Medford that illustrates how quickly fires in wildland-urban interfaces can spread. The Deer Ridge fire reached 633 acres in about two hours. It started in the Vista Pointe area in a lot that was still undeveloped, spreading rapidly through the tall grasses and weeds. Multiple homes were nearby.

“We dodged a bullet,” Kleinberg said of that fire. “It traveled to a less-developed area with the wind, but it traveled very fast. Had the wind been blowing in a different direction, we quite possibly would have lost some homes.”

Resources used to combat the flames included ground crews and an aircraft diverted from another area fire.

The city requires 100-foot field breaks adjacent to developed properties, including subdivisions.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4468.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Overgrown weeds on a lot near Eagle Trace Road in Medford pose a fire hazard.