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Southwest Oregon's fire season ending Oct. 1

Over and out.

Southwest Oregon's 2019 wildfire season on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry concludes at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the agency confirmed. You can thank weekend rain and a recent and fairly consistent drop in area temperatures for that.

With the declaration, fire prevention regulations on equipment debris burning are no longer banned. That being said, numerous area municipal fire departments still require permits for debris burning.

The 122-day fire season began June 1, which ODF officials have said will be the absolute latest the regional fire season starts from this year into the future. In that time, ODF fire crews KO'd 214 fires that burned a total of 324 acres.

The Milepost 97 fire, which burned more than 13,000 acres and pushed smoke into the Rogue Valley for about a week, is separate from ODF Southwest's total. That fire started July 24 in neighboring Douglas County because of an illegal campfire.

"It was such a tossup," ODF public information officer Natalie Weber said of the decision to end the season. "It really depended on the rain that we got this weekend. If we didn't get a lot, they were kind of predicting we probably would have held out a little bit, but just looking at the way everything is right now, it just made sense."

On average, the weekend rain dropped anywhere from 0.25 to 0.5 inches across Jackson and Josephine counties, National Weather Service meteorologist Shad Keene said.

"There were some overachievers," Keene said, adding parts of the Illinois Valley in Josephine County received 0.8 inches, for example.

The largest fire that burned on the 1.8 million acres of land ODF protects in Jackson and Josephine counties was the 155-acre East Evans Creek fire near Sams Valley, followed by the 65-acre Panther Gulch fire and 55-acre Gyda fire, which both sparked in the Applegate Valley.

Firefighters were able to keep 98% of the 2019 season's fires under 10 acres. Strategy didn't change, Weber said; crews simply had more resources at their disposal.

"(In 2018) there was so much going on. There were so many fires across the state, across the west, that when we needed resources, they weren't always available," Weber said. "This year, it was a much quieter year all the way around, and so when we had fires and we had initial attack situations going on, we could call and get five helicopters and four air tankers."

ODF also didn't have quite the same caliber of lightning to deal with when compared to the infamous July 15, 2018 storm that sparked at least 145 fires, with 106 of those on ODF-protected lands that burned about 50,000 acres.

"We did deal with the lightning storms, but not nearly as much as last year, and that was really the big difference," Weber said.

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