Fire danger drops to 'moderate'

·5 min read

Sep. 21—Continuing rain has allowed the fire danger level in Jackson and Josephine counties to drop to "moderate."

Earlier this week, the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District lowered the fire danger from "extreme" to "high." ODF was then able to drop the fire danger another notch to "moderate" Wednesday.

The change affects 1.8 million acres of ODF-protected state, private, county-owned and Bureau of Land Management lands within Jackson and Josephine counties.

For people who work on ODF-protected land, the industrial fire precaution level is now at "one" for Jackson and Josephine counties.

Rainy weather for the past several days will give way to sunny skies Thursday, with a high near 76 degrees and light winds for the Medford area. Clear weather will continue through at least Tuesday of next week, with highs in the 80s to low 90s, the National Weather Service predicted.

For the public, chainsaws, brush cutters and other power-driven or spark-emitting machinery can now be used before 1 p.m. and after 8 p.m.

Other fire prevention regulations remain in effect, including:

* No debris burning, including piles and debris burned in burn barrels.

* No fireworks on or within 200 meters of forest lands.

* Exploding targets and tracer ammunition, or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base, are prohibited.

* Campfires are allowed only in designated campgrounds. Portable stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels may be used in other locations clear of vegetation.

* Motorized vehicles, including all-terrain vehicles, are allowed only on improved roads. Possession of the following firefighting equipment is required while traveling, except on state highways, county roads and driveways: one shovel and one gallon of water or one 2.5-pound or larger fire extinguisher. All-terrain vehicles and motorcycles must be equipped with one 2.5-pound or larger fire extinguisher.

* Smoking while traveling is allowed only in enclosed vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water and other specifically designated locations.

* Cutting, grinding and welding metal is not allowed between 1 and 8 p.m. These activities are allowed during hours outside of this time frame only if the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and if a water supply is at the job site.

* Mowing of dead or dry grass with power-driven equipment is not allowed between 1 and 8 p.m. This restriction does not cover mowing green lawns or equipment used for commercial growing and harvesting of agricultural crops.

* Any other spark-emitting internal combustion engine use not specifically mentioned is not allowed between 1 and 8 p.m. Use of any spark-emitting internal combustion engine is allowed outside of this time frame only if the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and if a water supply is at the job site.

* Any electric fence controllers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories, or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services, and be installed and used in compliance with the fence controller's instructions for fire-safe operation.

For more information, see ODF's website at swofire.com.

On the lower Rogue River, campfires are allowed again if safeguards are followed in the Wild section of the National Wild and Scenic section of the river. The Wild section stretches from Grave Creek to the mouth of Watson Creek.

The building, maintaining, attending or use of a fire is permitted only within a raised fire pan or similar device that will contain the fire and its residue, in an area that is free of natural vegetation and below the high-water mark. All ashes must be carried out. As a preventative measure, groups traveling on the river must have a shovel and bucket.

Smoking is permitted only while on watercraft on waterways, or on vegetation-free sand and gravel bars located between the river and high-water mark.

The restrictions apply both to those traveling down the river on a watercraft, as well as those hiking the Rogue River National Recreation Trail on the north side of the river.

The Rainie Falls Trail on the south side of the river remains closed due to impacts from the Rum Creek Fire.

The Grave Creek boat ramp and the Rogue River Trail are not accessible via Galice Road.

The 21,347-acre Rum Creek Fire northwest of Grants Pass was 87% contained as of Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, fire managers issued a safety message asking the public to remember that the fire, while not growing, is still not out. The current phase of the fire suppression effort is focused on protecting the community in case fall weather becomes favorable for fire growth. Crews are also working on rehabilitating areas and restoring safe passage along roads and trails.

Nearly 300 people are still assigned to the Rum Creek Fire, down from an army of 2,000 that stopped the fire from reaching Merlin and Grants Pass.

The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Tuesday lowered the fire danger level from "extreme" to "high" on Forest Service land.

Restrictions that remain in place include:

* No fires except for commercial stoves, liquid fuel or propane-powered campfires or campfires within Forest Service-constructed concrete or metal fire rings or fireplaces in designated recreation sites.

* No driving except on roads and parking areas. Approved all-terrain vehicles may use Forest Service roads and trails.

* Generators with approved spark arrestors may be used in designated recreation areas.

* No welding or operating a torch with an open flame.

* No smoking except while on a watercraft or in an enclosed vehicle, building or designated recreation area, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter that is clear of all flammable material.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.