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California firefighters guard Ashland

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneCalifornia firefighters are stationed at Interstate-5 exit 19 in Ashland to help prevent fires during extreme conditions.

California firefighters have mobilized at the Ashland Interstate 5 exit after extreme fire danger is declared for Jackson County.

“They are amassed there right now,” said Chris Chambers, division chief for Ashland fire. “They could be here for a week, or longer, or decide conditions in California have worsened and return home. It’s nice to know our neighbors are willing to help if we get something like last year.”

There are 10 engines and two command vehicles along with 50 personnel positioned at Exit 19, just south of Ashland.

Their primary mission is to protect Oregon from fire.

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office has asked for the support to help head off another potentially devastating Almeda fire that destroyed nearly 2,500 residences in Jackson County last year.

Over the next week, Ashland residents should expect to see yellow and green engines throughout town as evacuation flyers are handed door-to-door by California firefighters.

The Almeda fire erupted south of Exit 19 on Sept. 8, 2020, and raced from Ashland to the outskirts of Medford within hours, resulting in the worst fire in Jackson County’s history.

Chambers said Ashland has sent its firefighters to California to help out on at least three fires, including those that raced through Paradise and Santa Rosa.

He said there are ongoing discussions about how long the firefighters can actually stay in Oregon since the fire season is looking bad for California as well.

Chambers said it takes time to mobilize firefighters and their vehicles to another state. It’s also possible the firefighters could be sent to another part of the Oregon depending on fire conditions.

With so many fires erupting so early in the season, Chambers said everyone is on high alert.

“Right now it’s looking pretty bleak for the rest of the fire season,” he said.

Oregon now has the largest wildfire burning in the country, the more than 200,000-acre Bootleg fire in Klamath County.

Extreme fire danger was declared in Oregon on July 14, which resulted in more restrictions to prevent igniting tinder-dry vegetation.

No operation of any gas powered machinery is allowed, such as chainsaws, trimmers or mowers.

Spark emitting devices such as welding or grinding equipment is not allowed.

No smoking outside of vehicles off paved roads is allowed.

Electric powered machinery is allowed, but don’t use any device that may cause a spark.

All open flames are not allowed except outside barbecues

The restrictions don’t apply in green, irrigated landscapes.

Ashland fire officials recommend homeowners take precautions to help minimize fire danger.

Clean debris from gutters and roofs, rake bark mulch back at least 5 feet from your home, including from fences, decks and outbuildings.

Flammable bushes and small trees should be removed within 30 feet from a home.

Make sure your address is clearly visible to first responders.

Local residents should also prepare a kit with food, water, clothing and important documents so they can leave at a moment’s notice.