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Smoke sightings spur burning questions

Driving from the coast toward Grants Pass Oct. 14, we saw a column of smoke that appeared to rise 5,000 to 10,000 feet west of Grants Pass, with smoke spreading over Grants Pass and the surrounding area. We saw the smoke at a distance of 10 to 15 miles. When we got close, there was a broad base of active burning based on where the smoke was rising. Was this really just a prescribed burn?

— Rick L.

We can all still be a little jumpy about seeing smoke in the sky here in the Rogue Valley, even in the middle of October. Even the slow-burning Fry Peak fire that sparked Sunday was a reminder that fire knows no season.

Chamise Kramer, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, said we can calm our nerves somewhat, however.

“We do a lot of outreach this time of year to get people to understand if they’re seeing smoke in the air at this time of year, it’s meant to be there,” Kramer said.

It’s prime time for prescribed burning and private burning, Kramer said, and so long as the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management get approval from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and a favorable conditions report from the National Weather Service, the agencies will be carrying out prescribed burns for the duration of the colder, damper months.

Kramer didn’t immediately have information on the burn you spotted, though the Weather Service identified the project as the Butcherknife Slate burn project.

If you ever have questions about prescribed burning in an area you are passing through, Rick, you have a few options to find out information in real time. One option is to call the prescribed fire information line at 1-800-267-3126. A recorded message, updated daily, relays information on all prescribed burns, Kramer said.

In addition, if you visit http://orrvc.org/rxfire.shtml, you can see all prescribed burns in our area’s nine districts, planned by the Forest Service, National Park Service and BLM.

If you see a large wildland burn that isn’t designated in that database and isn’t on the recording at that phone number, you can report wildfires on private or public lands by calling 911.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.