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Southwest Oregon fire danger drops to 'moderate'

Weekend rain and a drop in temperatures prompted the Oregon Department of Forestry to decrease the fire danger in southwest Oregon to “moderate” — the second drop in less than a week.

“It’s always hard to say in fall because things can change so drastically from one day to the next, but the weather we’ve been seeing has been a welcome change,” ODF spokeswoman Natalie Weber said. “We felt comfortable lowering the restrictions.”

The Medford airport received .17 inches of rain over the weekend, with a quarter inch in Ashland and a half inch in Williams, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Brett Lutz.

Crater Lake National Park got more than 2 inches of rain and a dusting of snow. The Slater and Devil fires, which have been burning in southern Josephine County and Northern California since Sept. 8, saw between a half inch and an inch of rain, according to the U.S. Forest Service. On Tuesday, the 156,417-acre Slater fire was 78% contained, while the 8,849-acre Devil fire was 58% contained, according to a news release.

On Tuesday, crews on both fires continued to strengthen containment lines while working on suppression repair, including the removal of firefighting equipment and shoring up of drainage features.

The ODF Southwest Region covers 1.8 million acres of public and private lands in Jackson and Josephine counties. The drop in fire level means tools such as chainsaws and brush cutters can now be operated until 1 p.m. and after 8 p.m. The time slots also apply to the cutting, grinding and welding of metal, and the mowing of dead or dry grass.

Other fire season regulations remain in effect, including no debris burning, no use of exploding targets or tracer ammunition, and no fireworks on or within an eighth-mile of forestlands.

Campfires are allowed only in designated campgrounds, though portable stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed elsewhere. Motorized vehicles are allowed only on improved roads, and a shovel and one gallon of water or a fire extinguisher that’s at least 2.5 pounds are required while traveling on forest roads.

Drier conditions are in the forecast for later this week, with east winds expected Wednesday night into Thursday across higher elevations and in the coastal mountains near the Slater fire. The conditions should help keep the skies clear of smoke.

“I do think we’re going to be smoke free through the weekend. Good news there,” Lutz said. “The mountains will be in high definition, I would expect.”

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.