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Controlled burn season is here

Controlled burns meant to reduce the risk and intensity of future wildfires began Monday in the Ashland Watershed, on land within the Ashland Forest Resiliency Stewardship Project now in its 10th year.

A 25-acre burn conducted Monday by the Lomakatsi Restoration Project is the first of 3,200 acres of planned controlled burns that AFR officials hope to get to before the start of next year’s wildfire season.

The slash piles were off Frank Hill Road in the Ashland Mine neighborhood west of Ashland and above the intersection of Highway 99 and Valley View Road, according to Ashland city officials.

Smoke was expected to be visible throughout the day Monday along Highway 99 between Ashland and Talent, city officials said.

That burn could continue Tuesday, with another 35 acres of burn piles, AFR spokesman Chris Chambers said.

Also, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest crews received the green light late Monday for burning 106 acres of slash in the watershed today, Chambers said.

The city of Ashland posts notifications before all AFR burns. To sign up for notifications, go to www.ashlandwatershed.org. For text-based notifications of each burn day, text the word “WATERSHED” in the message line to 888777. You will get an automatic confirmation from Nixle, the city’s community alert service.

AFR officials had planned to begin burning slash and woody debris piles in mid-November, but a month-long drought postponed those plans, Chambers said.

Better burning conditions will allow crews to do away with potential wildfire fuels in a controlled fashion to reduce the potential for wildfire outbreaks in the watershed, as well as reducing the potential size and intensity of wildfires.

The work also helps create healthier forest stands better equipped to withstand hotter, drier conditions expected over coming decades of climate change.

Last year poor burning conditions and the month-long federal government shutdown meant that only 2,209 acres of controlled burns were conducted on AFR lands, Chambers said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

file photoChris Chambers, forestry division chief for Ashland Fire & Rescue, walks through a controlled burn to reduce wildfire hazards in the Ashland Watershed.