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Longest recorded fire season ends

Mail Tribune/file photo A firefighter with Black Hills National Forest out of South Dakota works at a backburn on the Skyline Ridge Complex near Canyonville.

The 2021 fire season ended at 9 a.m Wednesday for the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District.

An end to fire season lifts all public use restrictions and industrial fire precaution levels on 1.8 million acres of state, private, municipal and federal land in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Between the May 12 start of fire season and Wednesday, ODF Southwest Oregon District firefighters responded to 278 fires. In all, 273 acres burned and no residences were damaged.

Over the course of the year, the district responded to 337 fires that burned a combined 389 acres. ODF began responding to fires consistently starting the first week of March and suppressed 59 fires — 30 caused by escaped debris burns — burning 115 acres ahead of the fire season declaration.

Hotter temperatures and windy conditions contributed to the spring fires spreading more easily, combined with extreme drought conditions and dry vegetation across much of the district by mid-May, according to a district news release.

ODF effectively reached its goal to stop 98% of fires at 10 acres or fewer — just 0.2% shy this year.

Acting District Forester Tyler McCarty described the season as “busy, but successful,” after months bracing for another potentially devastating summer of fire. McCarty highlighted strong cooperation among Rogue Valley agencies as critical to this season’s outcome.

“We credit this not only to our aggressive initial attack strategies and well trained firefighters, but our partners throughout the region, from federal agencies to local fire departments, that have helped to make this season a success,” said Natalie Weber, public information officer for the district, in the release.

The 2021 fire season ended without a fire event progressing beyond a Type 3 incident. The largest fire on the district, the North River Road fire, was stopped at 60 acres in late June, followed by the East Antelope fire (49 acres) in late May and Board Mountain fire (36 acres) in late August.

The 10 largest fires of the season range from 8 acres to 60 acres, with the remaining 268 fires stopped at under 6 acres. Four of the largest fires this year occurred prior to the fire season declaration. Fire crews responded to an additional 1,248 calls that did not require fire suppression efforts.

The end of fire season lifts fire prevention regulations on equipment use and debris burning on forestlands. Industrial slash burning remains prohibited and permits for residential debris burning still apply.

Fire season is scheduled to end Friday for Klamath and Lake counties after the longest fire season on record, lasting 160 days since fire season went into effect May 15.

To check burn days and inquire about permits, the Jackson County burn line can be reached at 541-776-7007. The Josephine County burn line can be reached at 541-474-9663.

ODF encourages those burning debris to remain vigilant and never leave burn piles unattended. Southern Oregon’s variable fall and winter weather make the region prone to fire year round.