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Fire-Related News - 2014

Local & regional news releases, articles & ODF bulletins

A chronological listing, with excerpts & links, for 2014

 

NOTE:  Not all regional fire news is included here.  For more, see:

The Oregon Department of Forestry's sites at:
www.swofire.com
, www.swofire.oregon.gov, wildfireoregondeptofforestry.blogspot.com/,
and their Fire Stats, Info & Updates page at www.oregon.gov/odf/Pages/fire/fire.aspx#Fire_Stats,_Info_&_Updates_.

The CAL-FIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) website at: http://www.fire.ca.gov/, which has links to a listing of fire incidents.

An archive of pre-season weather condition reports is also below.

 


 

2014 FIRE SEASON SUMMARY:  

The 2014 fire season started June 2 and lasted 136 days, ending on Wed., October 15th.

THE 2014 FIRE SEASON began Mon., June 2nd, declared in effect by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry for the Southwest Oregon District. We went from Moderate (blue) fire danger to High (yellow) on June 16th, with the IFPL (Industrial Fire Precaution Level) remaining at 1 (one). The IFPL increased to Level 2 (two) on Mon. July 14th. On Sat. July 19th, the fire danger level increased to "Extreme" (red), with the IFPL remaining at Level 2 (two) at this time. On Mon., August 4th, a total 24-hour shutdown of all power-driven and spark emitting equipment for publicly regulated activities and a rise to IFPL Level 3 (three) went into effect. On Mon., August 18th, the IFPL was temporarily lowered back to Level 2 (two), with public use restrictions unchanged; on Tues., August 26th, the IFPL returned to Level 3 (three), with public restrictions unchanged. On Sept. 18th, the IFPL was again lowered to Level 2, again with all public use restrictions unchanged. On Wed., Sept. 24th, the posted fire danger level was reduced to High (Yellow), with all public use restrictions on power equipment lifted but with fire season still in effect and with burn barrels and open burning remaining prohibited; the IFPL was also lowered to Level 1 (one). Due to more than expected rain at that time, the ODF again lowered the fire danger level to Moderate (blue) later on Sept. 24th but did not issue another public news release, keeping all other conditions of the previous bulletin intact. As warm, dry weather continued, the Oregon Dept. of Forestry issued an update on Fri. Oct. 3rd with fire safety warnings directed to hunters, as well as anyone engaged in outdoor activities. Finally, with a change to wetter conditions, the 2014 fire season was declared over by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry on the morning of Wed., Oct. 15th.

 


 

The 2014 fire season was declared over by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry at 8:30 a.m. Wed., October 15th:

 

October 15, 2014

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT - SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd
Medford, OR 97502

Contact: Brian Ballou, Oregon Dept. of Forestry, (541) 665-0662


FIRE SEASON ENDS ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS


Fire season ends today on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in southwest Oregon. Rainfall of at least one-half inch was recorded in many parts of the district, which includes state, private, county, city and Bureau of Land Management forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Fire season started June 2 and lasted 136 days.

The termination of fire season removes fire prevention regulations on equipment use and the use of fire for debris burning. This applies to the public and to industrial operations on forestlands. However, many structural fire protection districts require permits for debris burning, and both Jackson and Josephine counties have telephone numbers to call to find out whether air quality conditions allow burning. The numbers to call are:

• Josephine County: (541) 476-9663
• Jackson County: (541) 776-7007

More than 280 fires burned 9,559 acres on forestlands protected by ODF’s Southwest Oregon District. There are 1.8 million acres of forestland within the district’s protection boundary in Jackson and Josephine counties.

The largest blaze on the district was the Oregon Gulch Fire, which burned 35,129 acres of forestland in Jackson and Klamath counties, and Northern California. The Jackson County portion of the fire burned 8,306 acres, approximately 14 miles southeast of Ashland. The Oregon Gulch Fire was reported July 30 and was one fire in a complex of 23 other lightning-caused fires scattered around Jackson County.

The Salt Creek Fire, which also started July 30, burned 155 acres of forestland approximately 8 miles west of Shady Cove.

Lightning started 98 fires on the district and burned 9,071 acres. The thunderstorms hit July 11, July 22, July 29-30, August 11 and August 18.

The earliest fire on the district this year was the 143-acre Alder Creek Fire, which started January 23 during a period of unusual dryness and strong east winds. A fire that had been set to burn slash escaped control and started the Alder Creek Fire.

The 2014 fire season was similar to the summer of 2013, during which 348 fires burned 43,078 acres on lands protected by the Southwest Oregon District. Lightning-caused fires that year burned more than 42,000 acres.

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Southwest Oregon District fire precaution level information is also posted online at www.swofire.com.


###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 

View ODF's Oct. 15, 2014, bulletin announcing the end of the 2014 fire season.

 


 

The Oregon Dept. of Forestry issued an update on Fri. Oct. 3rd with fire safety warnings directed to hunters, as well as anyone engaged in outdoor activities:

 

October 3, 2014

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT - SOUTHWEST OREGON MEDIA
5286 Table Rock RD
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Kaitlyn Webb, Oregon Department of Forestry, (541) 620-1572
Brian Ballou, Oregon Department of Forestry, (541) 621-4156


PREVENT WILDFIRES THIS HUNTING SEASON

It is hunting season and there are precautions to be taken when walking and driving in fire-prone forests and areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. The threat of new fires igniting is not completely behind us, and the dangers within old burns can be hidden. There are three key elements hunters should be paying attention to this fall: Put out campfires completely before leaving camp, watch out for fire-damaged trees, and don’t be surprised to see a smoke or two inside recently burned areas.

Although the hottest months of summer have passed, vegetation remains dry and the chance of an abandoned campfire turning into a harmful blaze is still possible. It is important to have a campfire only in a place where its heat and sparks won’t ignite nearby grass, brush and trees. There should be at least 5 feet of mineral soil around the fire pit and 15 feet of vertical space above it. Surround the fire pit with rock or a metal ring. Before going to bed or leaving camp, the campfire should be completely extinguished. This can be done by pouring water on the fuels, mixing dirt into the coals, or separating fuels from each other. A fully extinguished campfire should be cold to the touch.

A serious danger hunters may encounter in areas where wildfires burned this last summer are the dead trees (snags) that are still standing. These trees are not stable since the trunks have been weakened by fire so they can easily topple over which can be harmful to any passerby who is struck. Windy days increase the danger of falling trees and injury. Camping inside of old burns is not advisable, it is best to spend as little time as possible in old fires. The Oregon Gulch fire is an example of a recent burn which hunters should use extra caution when entering. Users must be aware of their surroundings and be educated on the risks found within recent forest fires. It is smart when walking through previously burned areas to keep your eyes up and scan the trees, listen for falling or cracking noises, and avoid areas dense with burned trees if possible since these unsteady snags can be fatal.

In addition to dead and burned trees, forest fires also leave behind potentially harmful hot spots. After a fire has been contained and appears to be out, pockets of heat can smolder for long periods of time. If stepped in or touched, a hot pocked from an old fire can cause burns. These hotspots can be harmful to hunters and anyone exploring through previously burned lands.

Hot spots can be identified by white ash or steam, they often fester around roots or stumps, and are evident by increased temperatures when touched. Moving slowing and being aware of one’s surroundings will reduce the chances of stumbling upon a dangerous hot spot in recently burned areas.

Fire season has not come to a close with the arrival of fall, in fact the end is not yet in site. This time of year is still very fire-prone and with the addition of an extraordinarily dry past year forest users must take extra precautions. Be aware of your surroundings, be responsible with campfires, and avoid dangerous areas due to past fire activity if possible.

• If you see smoke in an old burn and would like to report it, please call the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Medford Unit office at (541) 664-3328, or the Grants Pass Unit office at (541) 474-3152.

• If you encounter smoke or fire activity within an old burn that places someone in danger please call 9-1-1.


###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 

View ODF's news bulletin update of Oct. 3rd, 2014 (pdf).

 

 


 

[NOTE: ODF's news bulletin of 24 Sept. says that the fire danger level is "High" but due to significant rainfall it was lowered again later on that same date to "Moderate" with all other information unchanged; no additional news release was sent out reflecting this fire danger level redesignation.]

 

September 24, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT
5286 Table Rock RD
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Greg Alexander, Asst. District Forester, Medford, (541) 664-3328
Rick Dryer, Asst. District Forester, Grants Pass, (541) 474-3152
Matthew Krunglevich, ODF SWO District Fire Planner, (541) 664-3328

 

RAIN REDUCES FIRE DANGER LEVEL ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS

Cool and wet weather across southwest Oregon reduced wildfire danger on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District. The public regulated use fire danger level dropped to “high” (yellow) today. Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) 1 (one) also took effect this morning.

All restrictions on power equipment use by the public have been suspended. The restrictions on campfire use outside of designated campgrounds and driving motorized vehicles off improved roads have also been suspended. However, pile burning and burn barrel use will not be allowed. Fire season remains in effect in southwest Oregon.

Fire prevention regulations may change in a few days if dry weather conditions return.

These regulations affect 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city and Bureau of Land Management lands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

 

The following public fire prevention regulations remain in effect:

• No debris burning, including piles and debris burned in burn barrels;

• No fireworks use on forestlands;

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

• Smoking while traveling is allowed only in enclosed vehicles on improved roads;

• Electric fence controllers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., 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.

 

Under IFPL 1:

• Loggers and other industrial operators must have fire suppression tools at the job site;

• Watchman service must be provided.

 

Information about fire season restrictions on ODF-protected lands is available online at www.swofire.com and at ODF Southwest Oregon District unit offices:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd: (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr: (541) 474-3152

###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

View ODF's 9/24/09 bulletin "Rain reduces fire danger level."

 


 

September 18, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT
5286 Table Rock RD
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 664-3328

INDUSTRIAL FIRE PRECAUTION LEVEL 2 TAKES EFFECT TODAY


The Industrial Fire Prevention Level (IFPL) in forests and wildlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry in southwest Oregon lowered from level 3 to level 2 this morning. This affects the 1.8 million acres of state, county, private and Bureau of Land Management lands protected by ODF’s Southwest Oregon District in Jackson and Josephine counties.

The public fire prevention regulations as well as the restrictions in effect in the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial remain the same.
The following IFPL 2 regulations are now in effect:
• The use of fire in any form is prohibited
• The use of power saws is prohibited, except at loading sites, between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
• The use of cable yarders is prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
• Blasting is prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
• Welding and the cutting of metal are prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Additionally, commercial operators on forestlands are required to have fire suppression equipment on site and provide watchman service.

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:
• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Southwest Oregon District fire precaution level information is also posted online at www.swofire.com.

###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 


 

The IFPL returned to Level 3 (three) as of Tues., August 26th, as per ODF's latest August 25th bulletin:

 

August 25, 2014

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT - SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd, Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 665-0662

IFPL 3 RETURNS TUESDAY ON
ODF-PROTECTED LANDS IN SW OREGON


A stretch of very hot and dry weather begins tomorrow in southwest Oregon, prompting a return to Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) 3 at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 26, on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District. The district protects 1.8 million acres of state, private, county and Bureau of Land Management forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

The public regulated use fire danger level remains unchanged at “extreme” (red). For a complete list of public regulated use restrictions, see www.swofire.com, or call your local Oregon Department of Forestry unit office.

Under IFPL 3, the following fire prevention regulations take effect tomorrow:

• Cable yarding will not be allowed. However, gravity operated-logging systems employing non-motorized carriages may operate until 1:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. These systems must have all blocks and moving lines suspended 10 feet above the ground, except the line between the carriage and the chokers;

• Power saw use will not be allowed. However, power saws may be used until 1:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. at loading sites and on tractor or skidder operations;

• In addition, the following equipment and operations must shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.:

o Tractor/skidder, feller-buncher, forwarder, or shovel logging operations where tractors, skidders or other equipment with a blade capable of constructing fireline are immediately available to quickly reach and effectively attack a fire start;

o Mechanized loading or hauling of any product or material;

o Blasting;

o Welding or cutting of metal;

o Any spark-emitting not specifically mentioned above.

The following IFPL regulations are currently in effect and will remain in effect:

• The use of fire in any form is prohibited;

• Commercial operations must have fire suppression equipment on the job site;

• Watchman service must be provided.

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328

• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Southwest Oregon District fire prevention regulations are also posted on the World Wide Web at www.swofire.com.

###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

View ODF's August 25th bulletin announcing a return to IFPL 3 on Tues. August 26th.

 


 

On Mon., August 18th, the IFPL was temporarily lowered back to 2 (two), replacing the Level 3 declared in ODF's earlier bulletin of August 1st:

 

Monday, August 18, 2014


IFPL 2 Takes Effect Today

Loggers and workers on other industrial operations in forests and wildlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry in southwest Oregon can work a few extra hours starting today. Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) 2 took effect at 12:01 a.m. today.

There are no changes to public fire prevention regulations.

Under IFPL 2, the following restrictions now apply:

The use of fire in any form is prohibited;

Power saws must be shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., except at loading sites;

Cable yarders must be shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 pm.;

Blasting, welding and the cutting of metal must be shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Additionally, commercial operations must have fire suppression equipment and watchman service on the job site.

 


 

On Fri., August 1st, the ODF announced a total shutdown (24-hour ban) on all power-driven and spark-emitting equipment for publicly regulated activities, and a rise to IFPL (Industrial) Level 3 (three), effective as of August 4th. ODF's bulletin states:

 

August 1, 2014

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT SOUTHWEST - OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 665-0662

POWER EQUIPMENT SHUTDOWN, IFPL 3 STARTS MONDAY
ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS IN SW OREGON


Very dry conditions in southwest Oregon’s forests and wildlands, and the recent outbreak of large wildfires, makes it necessary for the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District to shut down public use of power-driven and spark-emitting equipment starting Monday, Aug. 4, at 12:01 a.m.

In addition, the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) rises to level 3 (three) on that same day.

The fire danger level remains “extreme” (red).

These regulations affect the 1.8 million acres of state, private, county and Bureau of Land Management forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

 

Below are the public regulated use restrictions that take effect Monday [August 4th]:

• Chain saw use will be prohibited;

• Mowing of dried and cured grass with power driven equipment will be prohibited, except for the mowing of green lawns, or the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops;

• Cutting, grinding and welding of metal will be prohibited.

The following public regulated use restrictions are currently in effect and will remain in effect:

• Debris burning is prohibited;

• Burn barrel use is prohibited;

• Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads;

• Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except at designated locations. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed;

• Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, is prohibited, except on improved roads;

• Use of fireworks is prohibited;

• Any electric fence controller in use shall be: 1) Listed be a nationally recognized testing laboratory or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services, and 2) Operated in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions;

• Use of exploding targets is prohibited;

• Use of tracer ammunition or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base is prohibited;

• Any other spark-emitting machinery not specifically mentioned is prohibited;

• Use of sky lanterns is prohibited.

 

Under IFPL 3, the following fire prevention regulations take effect on Monday [August 4th]:

• Cable yarding will not be allowed. However, gravity operated-logging systems employing non-motorized carriages may operate until 1:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. These systems must have all blocks and moving lines suspended 10 feet above the ground, except the line between the carriage and the chokers;

• Power saw use will not be allowed. However, power saws may be used until 1:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. at loading sites and on tractor or skidder operations;

• In addition, the following equipment and operations must shut down between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.:

o Tractor/skidder, feller-buncher, forwarder, or shovel logging operations where tractors, skidders or other equipment with a blade capable of constructing fireline are immediately available to quickly reach and effectively attack a fire start;

o Mechanized loading or hauling of any product or material;

o Blasting;

o Welding or cutting of metal;

o Any spark-emitting not specifically mentioned above.

 

The following IFPL regulations are currently in effect and will remain in effect:

• The use of fire in any form is prohibited;

• Commercial operations must have fire suppression equipment on the job site;

• Watchman service must be provided.

 

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328

• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Southwest Oregon District fire prevention regulations are also posted on the World Wide Web at www.swofire.com.

###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 

View ODF's August 1, 2014 bulletin announcing a 24-hour total shutdown on all power-driven and spark-emitting equipment and rise to IFPL Level 3 beginning Mon. Aug. 4th.

 


 

The ODF released a second bulletin Fri. July 18th detailing the rise to "Extreme" fire danger and heightened restrictions for the Rogue River Wild & Scenic Section, effective Sat. July 19th:

 

July 18, 2014

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd
Medford, OR 97502

ROGUE RIVER-SISKIYOU NATIONAL FOREST
Supervisor’s Office
3040 Biddle Rd.
Medford, OR 97504

Contact: Paul Galloway, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, (541) 471-6755

Brian Ballou, Oregon Dept. of Forestry, (541) 665-0662

 

EXTREME FIRE DANGER IN ROGUE RIVER WILD & SCENIC SECTION

No Open Fires Allowed From Grave Creek to Watson Creek


The fire danger level rises to “Extreme” (red) at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19, in the Wild & Scenic Section of the Rogue River. The Oregon Dept. of Forestry protects the Bureau of Land Management section of the river between Grave Creek and Marial, and the Rogue River Siskiyou National Forest protects the section from Marial downstream to Watson Creek.

Here are the regulations going into effect tomorrow:

• Smoking will be prohibited except in boats on the water, and on naturally vegetation-free gravel bars and sand bars below the river’s high-water mark.

• Open fires will be prohibited, including camp fires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires. However, portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels will be allowed on naturally vegetation-free gravel bars and sand bars below the high-water mark

• Travelers must carry a shovel and bucket (one-gallon size).

• Fireworks will be prohibited.

For further information about fire restrictions in all parts of the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River, contact the Smullin Visitor Center located at the Rand National Historic Site at (541) 479-3735.

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328

• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Southwest Oregon District fire precaution level information is also posted on the World Wide Web at www.swofire.com.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest fire prevention regulations are posted online at www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou.


###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 

View ODF's 7/18/14 bulletin #2 announcing the increase to EXTREME in the Rogue River Wild & Scenic Section on Sat. July 19th (pdf).

 


 

 

On July 18th (at 12:16 pm), the ODF issued the following bulletin announcing an increase of the posted Fire Danger Level to EXTREME starting at 12:01 AM Saturday, July 19th:

 

July 18, 2014

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd
Central Point, OR 97502
Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 665-0662

 

FIRE DANGER JUMPS TO EXTREME ON ODF-PROTECTED
LANDS IN SOUTHWEST OREGON

 

A long period of temperatures hovering around 100 degrees has cooked southwest Oregon vegetation into a tinder-dry condition. In response, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District is raising the fire danger level to “extreme” (red) at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19.

The Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) will remain at Level 2 (two).

The primary difference between current fire prevention regulations and those taking effect tomorrow affects power-driven equipment, such as chain saws and mowers. Power-driven equipment will be required to shut down at 10:00 a.m. instead of 1:00 p.m. And users of other power-driven, spark-emitting equipment, such as wood splitters and generators, must also shut down at 10:00 a.m. Equipment use may resume after 8:00 p.m. In all cases, a fire watch of at least one hour should take place after the equipment is shut down.

Also, there is a fire prevention regulation being added prohibiting the use of sky lanterns on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

 

Here are the details of the adjusted and new regulations taking effect tomorrow:

• Chain saw use will be prohibited between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Chain saw use will be permitted at all other hours, if the following fire fighting equipment is present with each operating saw: one axe, one shovel, and one 8-ounce or larger fire extinguisher. In addition, a fire watch will be required at least one hour following the use of each saw.

• The cutting, grinding and welding of metal will be prohibited between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. These activities will be permitted during other hours if conducted in a cleared area and if a water supply is present.

• The mowing of dry or dead grass with power-driven equipment will be prohibited between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. This will not apply to the mowing of green lawns, or the use of equipment for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.

• The operation of any other spark-emitting machinery not specifically mentioned above will be prohibited between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

• The use of sky lanterns will be prohibited.

 

The following fire prevention regulations are currently in effect and will remain in effect until the fire danger level drops significantly:

• Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in vehicles on improved roads.

• Debris burning is prohibited.

• Burn barrel use is prohibited.

• Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires, except in approved fire rings at designated campgrounds. In other locations, portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels are allowed.

• Use of motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, is prohibited, except on improved roads or for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.

• Use of fireworks is prohibited.

• Any electric fence controller in use shall be: 1) Listed be a nationally recognized testing laboratory or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services; and 2) Operated in compliance with manufacturer’s instructions

• Use of exploding targets is prohibited.

• Use of tracer ammunition or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base is prohibited.

 

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Southwest Oregon District fire prevention regulations are also posted online at www.swofire.com.

###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 

View ODF's 7/18/14 bulletin announcing the increase to EXTREME Fire Danger on Sat. July 19th (pdf).

 


 

On July 8th, the ODF issued the following bulletin announcing an increase of the posted IFPL (Industrial Fire Precaution Level) to 2 (two) starting on Mon., July 14th:

 

July 8, 2014

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock RD
Central Point, OR 97502
Contact: Greg Alexander, (541) 664-3328
Rick Dryer, (541) 474-3152

 

INDUSTRIAL FIRE PRECAUTION LEVEL RISES
ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS
IN JACKSON AND JOSEPHINE COUNTIES


Increased fire danger on forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District has made it necessary to increase the fire prevention measures on industrial operations, such as logging sites and other commercial operations. Industrial Fire Precaution Level II (two) takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, July 14, and includes the following restrictions:

• The use of fire in any form will be prohibited

• The use of power saws will be prohibited, except at loading sites, between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

• The use of cable yarders will be prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

• Blasting will be prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

• Welding or cutting of metal will be prohibited between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Additionally, commercial operators on forestlands are required to have fire suppression equipment on site and provide watchman service.

 

These regulations affect all state, county, private and Bureau of Land Management lands in Jackson and Josephine counties. The regulated use zones affected by this proclamation include SW-1, SW-2, SW-3, SW-4, SK-3, RR-1, RR-2 and RR-3, and all forestland within one-eighth of a mile of these zones.

 

The public regulated use fire danger level remains at “high” (yellow).

 

The following fire prevention regulations took effect June 16:

• No debris burning, including piles and debris burned in burn barrels;

• No fireworks use on forestlands;

• 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 are allowed in other locations;

• Motorized vehicles are allowed only on improved roads;

• Chain saws may not be used between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. During other hours, chain saw users must have an ax, a shovel and an 8-oz or larger fire extinguisher at the job site, and a fire watch is required for one hour after the saw is shut down;

• Mowing of dead or dry grass with power-driven equipment is not allowed between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. This restriction does not include mowing of green lawns, or equipment used for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops;

• Cutting, grinding or welding metal are not allowed between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. These activities are allowed during other hours provided the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and a water supply is at the job site;

• Smoking while traveling is allowed only in enclosed vehicles on improved roads;

• Electric fence controllers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., 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.

 

In the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial, the following fire prevention restrictions also went into effect on June 16:

• Smoking is prohibited while traveling, except in boats on the water, and on sand or gravel bars that lie between water and high water marks that are free of vegetation.

• All travelers are required to carry one shovel and a one-gallon or larger bucket.

• Use of fireworks is prohibited.

• Open fires are prohibited, including campfires, cooking fires and warming fires. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels, and charcoal fires for cooking and built in raised fire pans, are allowed on sand or gravel bars that lie between water and high water marks that are free of vegetation. Ashes must be hauled out.

 

For more information about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, contact the unit office in your area:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. Phone: (541) 664-3328

• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Drive, Grants Pass. Phone: (541) 474-3152

Southwest Oregon District fire precaution level information is also posted on the World Wide Web at www.swofire.com.

###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 

View ODF's 7/8/14 bulletin announcing the increase to Level 2 for the IFPL on Mon. July 14th (pdf).

 


 

On Wed. morning, June 11th, the ODF issued the following bulletin announcing an increase of the posted Fire Danger Level to HIGH starting at 12:01 a.m. Monday, June 16th:

 

June 11, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT
5286 Table Rock RD
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Greg Alexander, Asst. District Forester, (541) 664-3328
Rick Dryer, Asst. District Forester, (541) 474-3152

FIRE DANGER LEVEL CLIMBS TO HIGH ON MONDAY [June 16th]

The fire danger level on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties will increase on Monday, June 16. The public regulated use fire danger level will be raised to “high” (yellow) but the Industrial Fire Precaution Level will remain at level 1 (one).

These regulations affect 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city and Bureau of Land Management lands protected by ODF’s Southwest Oregon District.

Public regulated use restrictions that will take effect on Monday include:

• No debris burning, including piles and debris burned in burn barrels;

• No fireworks use on forestlands;

• Exploding targets and tracer ammunition, or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base, will be prohibited;

• Campfires will be allowed only in designated campgrounds. Portable stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels will be allowed in other locations;

• Motorized vehicles will be allowed only on improved roads;

• Chain saws may not be used between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. During other hours, chain saw users must have an ax, a shovel and an 8-oz or larger fire extinguisher at the job site, and a fire watch is required for one hour after the saw is shut down;

• Mowing of dead or dry grass with power-driven equipment will not be allowed between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. This restriction does not include mowing of green lawns, or equipment used for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops;

• Cutting, grinding or welding metal will not be allowed between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. These activities will be allowed during other hours provided the work site is cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and a water supply is at the job site;

• Smoking while traveling will be allowed only in enclosed vehicles on improved roads;

• Electric fence controllers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., 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.


In the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial, the following fire prevention restrictions will also go into effect on June 16:

• Smoking will be prohibited while traveling, except in boats on the water, and on sand or gravel bars that lie between water and high water marks that are free of vegetation.

• All travelers will be required to carry one shovel and a one-gallon or larger bucket.

• Use of fireworks will be prohibited.

• Open fires will be prohibited, including campfires, charcoal fires, cooking fires and warming fires. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels, and charcoal fires for cooking and built in raised fire pans will be allowed on sand or gravel bars that lie between water and high water marks that are free of vegetation. Ashes must be hauled out.

For further information about fire restrictions in other parts of the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River, contact the Smullin Visitor Center located at the Rand National Historic Site at (541) 479-3735, or your local Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest office.


Information about fire season restrictions on ODF-protected lands is available online at www.swofire.com and at ODF Southwest Oregon District unit offices:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd: (541) 664-3328
• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr: (541) 474-3152

-- 30 --

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

 

View ODF's 6/11/14 bulletin announcing the increase to HIGH Fire Danger on Mon. June 16th (pdf).

 


 

Fire Season began June 2nd, officially declared in effect by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry.

Full details of ODF's May 30, 2014, bulletin announcing the start of fire season are as follows:

 

May 30, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA

OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY
SOUTHWEST OREGON DISTRICT
5286 Table Rock RD
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Greg Alexander, Medford Unit Forester, (541) 664-3328
Rick Dryer, Grants Pass Unit Forester, (541) 474-3152

FIRE SEASON STARTS MONDAY ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS IN JACKSON AND JOSEPHINE COUNTIES

Fire season on forestlands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s (ODF) Southwest District begins Monday, June 2, at 12:01 a.m. The fire danger level will be “moderate” (blue) and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) will be 1 (one). This declaration affects state, private, county and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Fire season is determined by the state forester when vegetation becomes dry and fires become harder to control.

A dry winter has left dead vegetation (fallen trees and branches, leaves and litter, etc.) unusually low on moisture content. The extended forecast for summer in southwest Oregon predicts hotter and drier than normal conditions, increasing the likelihood of wildfires starting easily and increasing in size faster. The fire precaution regulations prohibit activities, such as debris burning, that commonly cause wildfires in late spring and early summer.


Fire season restrictions that will go into effect on June 2 are as follows:

• Debris burning will be prohibited, except burn barrels for which a burn permit has been obtained from ODF or local structural fire protection districts. Burn barrel use will be completely prohibited beginning July 1;

• The use of fireworks on forestlands will be prohibited;

• Exploding targets and tracer ammunition, or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base, will be prohibited;


• In the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave creek and Marial:

o Campfires must be in fire pans or on a fire blanket that is placed on sand or gravel bars between the river and the high water mark, and only in areas which are naturally free of flammable vegetation;

o Smoking will be permitted on sand and gravel bars between the river and the high water mark, and only in areas naturally free of flammable vegetation, or in boats and rafts while on the river;

o Travelers must carry a shovel and a bucket with a capacity of at least one gallon;


• Under IFPL 1,
commercial operations, such as timber harvesting conducted on forestlands, will be required to have fire suppression equipment on the job site at all times. A watchman must also be provided.


For more information
about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s fire season regulations, please call or visit the Southwest Oregon District unit office nearest to you:

• Medford Unit, 5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point. (541) 664-3328

• Grants Pass Unit, 5375 Monument Dr., Grants Pass. (541) 474-3152

Current regulations are also posted online at www.swofire.com.


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
bballou@odf.state.or.us

###

View ODF's bulletin announcing the start of the 2014 Fire Season on Mon. June 2nd.  (pdf format)


 

The following is an archive of the 2014 pre-season outlook:

 

Key indicators at this point for the fire season ahead are not looking good.

Weather systems and snowpack levels this past winter and spring remained unpredictable; the lack of any definable, typical El Nino or La Nina weather pattern out in the Pacific during the fall of 2013 and the winter of 2013-14 was dubbed "La Nada" (The Nothing) by one meteorologist.

Since then, while spring precipitation has helped lessen the difference between actual and average figures, precipitation levels as measured at the airport in the Rogue Valley are still down by about 2.5 inches. (17 inches is considered normal; the water year total to date is only just over 14.5.)

Overall, the dry end to 2013, the very dry January and less-than-average precipitation since, and the lack of any significant snowpack throughout the past wet season are not auspicious for the months ahead.

Even back in January, separate NOAA NWS models were showing that already-existing drought conditions throughout much of California for the last several years and that stretched just into Oregon last year have extended further north and now cover much of the lower third of the state, blanketing southern Oregon with dark brown, the color code for "drought" designation.

As precipitation levels in the Rogue Valley remained below average, on March 19th the Jackson County commissioners declared "a local drought disaster," and at the County's request, Oregon's Gov. John Kitzhaber on May 7th declared a drought emergency in Jackson County, allowing relief funds to be accessed by farmers, ranchers, and related agricultural interests.

The Mail Tribune's article covering the drought declaration also stated that "Snowpack in the Rogue Basin is at 31 percent of average, according to recent U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. // "Eight snow monitoring sites in the basin have set new record lows, including three sites on Mt. Ashland," where the Mt. Ashland Ski park "failed to open for the winter because of a lack of snow." For more, see the article link below ("Our opinion: Medford's abundant water supplies insulate residents from the effects of drought").

On May 30th, the ODF's bulletin announcing the start of fire season also acknowledged that: "A dry winter has left dead vegetation (fallen trees and branches, leaves and litter, etc.) unusually low on moisture content. The extended forecast for summer in southwest Oregon predicts hotter and drier than normal conditions, increasing the likelihood of wildfires starting easily and increasing in size faster."

More information about the start of this year's fire season and the area's available resources is included in the Mail Tribune's article on Sat. May 31, 2014, titled "A jump on fire season." The MT's excerpt states: "Monday's start of the summer wildfire season is southwest Oregon's earliest in two decades and brings similar wildland conditions that helped make last year the worst here in more than a decade."

 

Numerous local news stories over the last 6 months have also underscored the potential direction that this fire season may be headed in:

 

"Our opinion: Medford's abundant water supplies insulate residents from the effects of drought," Mail Tribune, Fri., May 9, 2014, in Opinion. The MT's excerpt: "Don't let this week's gloomy skies and spring showers fool you: Southern Oregon is facing its driest summer on record. The governor's declaration of a drought emergency Wednesday, and the U.S...."

 

" 'Grim' winter leads to drought," Mail Tribune, Thurs. May 8, 2014, in News. The MT's excerpt: "Gov. John Kitzhaber declared a drought emergency in Jackson County Wednesday in preparation for water shortages and low stream flows caused by the worst snowpack on record."

 

"Jackson County declares drought disaster," Mail Tribune, Thurs. March 20, 2014 - front page, top.  The MT's excerpt: "Snowpack in the Rogue Basin is at 31 percent of average, according to recent U.S. Department of Agriculture reports. // "Eight snow monitoring sites in the basin have set new record lows, including three sites on Mt. Ashland. // "The Mt. Ashland Ski Area, which failed to open for the winter because of a lack of snow, has been hard hit..."

 

"Government may alter funding to fight wildfires (Federal proposal could free up natural disaster funds)," by the AP, Boise, Idaho, carried in the Mail Tribune, Tues., March 18, 2014, pg. 2A. An excerpt: "A bipartisan effort underway in Congress would change the way the country pays to fight catastrophic wildfires, tapping natural disaster funds instead of money intended for fire prevention, lawmakers from Oregon and Idaho said Monday. // ... // "[Interior Secretary Sally] Jewell noted that in 2013, the fire suppression budget was exceeded by $500 million, with that money coming from fire restoration and prevention funds. Firefighting costs have exceeded their budget in eight of the past 10 years. // ... // "Experts at the National Interagency Fire Center predicted a busy wildfire season in Southern California, New Mexico and Arizona this year, expanding into Northern California and southern Oregon later in the year. // " ' Fires are now often bigger and hotter and last longer,' [Oregon Democratic Senator Ron] Wyden said, in part because of the frequent 'robbery' of fire restoration funds for firefighting efforts...' "

 

"Area may endure summer drought (Regional watersheds are at 30 percent of average snowpack)," Mail Tribune, Mon. March 10, 2014, pg. 1A, top. An excerpt: "One pineapple express after another bringing warm rain across Oregon has helped boost reservoirs west of the Cascades and snowpacks in the northern mountains. // "But U.S. Natural Resources Conservation hydrologist Julie Koeberle says much of Oregon is still looking at water shortages this summer, particularly in the parched southern tier of the state."

 

"Mt. Ashland Ski Area weighs options for season pass holders," Mail Tribune, Mon., March 10, 2014, p. 1A, top.  The MT's excerpt: " Mt. Ashland Ski Area officials said they will announce by Friday what they will do for skiers and snowboarders who purchased season passes that they were never able to use this winter."

 

"Storms may not relieve Northwest water worries (Northeast Oregon has the best snowpack at around 70 percent)," Mail Tribune, Sat., February 8, 2014, page 2A. An excerpt: "The rain and snow falling across Oregon are far from enough to break the drought. // "Snowpack levels across most of the state Friday were less than half of normal, and the drought index was still severe to moderate. // "National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sandler says it will take near-record rain and snow for the next three months to get things back to normal."

 

"How dry is it? (Wetter, seasonal weather still not on immediate horizon)," Mail Tribune, Sat., February 1, 2014, pg. 1A, top. An excerpt: "Southern Oregon's snowpack is the slimmest in Oregon — barely one-fifth of average — and no drought-busting storms are in the immediate future, meteorologists say. // "Snowpack in the Rogue and Umpqua basins are at 21 percent of average, tying the Klamath Basin for the worst in the state."

 

"Wildfires spring up from dry weather pattern," Mail Tribune, Sat. Jan. 25th, 2014, Page 1A. "Federal and state forestry crews battled two unusually early wildfires Friday that were sparked in logging debris at opposite ends of Jackson County. // "Crews from the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry worked to contain the Alder Creek fire outside Shady Cove, which started at about 2 p.m. Thursday and had grown to 125 acres by Friday. In Ashland, an 8-acre fire was doused near a fuels-reduction burn pile near the Horn Gap trailhead. // " 'These were piles (of logging debris) lit in early December and late November,' said Grayback Forestry President Mike Wheelock, who sent firefighting crews to both fires. 'It's quite unusual this time of year to have a holdover that long. It's a sign of the drought conditions we've had.' " As of Friday morning, a containment time was not known for the Shady Cove fire. Other fires burning Friday in Oregon included the Coos district 300-acre Bone Mountain fire and the 40-acre Camas Creek fire; the 50-acre Falcon fire and the 30-acre Shingle Mill fire in the Astoria district; and "five fires between 1 and 200 acres" in the North Cascade district.

 

"Wind, drought prompt fire danger warnings," The Associated Press carried in the Mail Tribune, Friday, Jan. 24th, 2014, Page 1A. "Oregon's rainy reputation is being tested, as dry grass and brush have prompted unprecedented red flag fire warnings in the southwestern corner of the state - a situation normally reserved for late summer." ... "The warnings cover Josephine, Jackson, Curry, Coos and Douglas counties, and extend south into California as far as the San Francisco Bay." ... "The red flag warnings apply to the sunny slopes and ridges above the fog, at about 2,500 feet, where temperatures can be in the 50s and winds can gust to 30 mph." ... "Brian Ballou, fire prevention specialist for the Oregon Department of Forestry, said state and federal agencies normally conduct prescribed burns in the forests at this time of year to reduce fire danger in the summer.// "But the weather has ended the burns, he said.// " 'It's just not a time to be doing any kind of burning,' he said." ... "A high pressure ridge stuck off the coast continues to block storms, starving ski resorts, reservoirs and forests of snow and rain. Mt. Ashland Ski Area has yet to open for the year.// "The U.S. Drought Monitor puts nearly all of Oregon in severe drought..."

 

"NWS warns that region faces wildfire threat: Gusty winds, low humidity in the forecast; 'It's more of a summertime' phenomenon" - Mail Tribune, Wed. Jan. 22, 2014, Page 1A. "Facing a severe lack of moisture and expecting strong, gusty winds, the National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for Thursday evening through Friday morning across southwestern Oregon. The watch, issued Tuesday, warns the greatest danger for 'rapid fire growth' will occur above 3,500 feet, but the advisory touches portions of the Rogue Valley floor, said Shad Keene, meteorologist with the weather service in Medford." ... " 'This is for the gusty winds and the low humidity in combination with the very dry fuels. The forest is dry. If there was a fire sparked, our primary concern is the potential for rapid fire growth,' Keene said. 'We may have had these types of winds already this winter, but it wasn't as dry. It's been such a long time since we've seen a lot of rain and we're expecting it to stay dry.' " ... "ODF spokesman Brian Ballou said he expects a busy fire season if winter weather continues its current course. 'People just need to be cautious with any open flame. It's one of those years where you have to be cautious with anything outdoors,' Ballou said. 'It's already really dry out there.' "

 

"Drought may make for a fiery California winter: 150 wildfires so far in January; the average is only 25," Los Angeles Times carried in the Mail Tribune, Mon. Jan. 20th, 2014, Page 2A. "California is bracing for what officials fear could be an unprecedented winter fire season fueled by record dry conditions that show no signs of letting up." ... " 'It really is unprecedented. In my career, I've not seen this level,' Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said. 'It's the first (weeks) of January and we're seeing conditions that would normally be occurring in midsummer. That's what we're up against.' " ... "William Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, said California's historically wet months of February, March and April look bone-dry, and that is going to heighten the fire danger." ... "Patzert said this season's parched conditions are part of a longer-term weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation..." that was, for almost two decades until the mid-1990s in a 'positive' phase "that brought pockets of plentiful rain to California and Oregon," but that "more recently, the oscillation has trended toward a 'negative' phase that's pushed the wet climate north and east of California." ... " 'We don't really understand why the (change) happens ... but what we do know is that once it happens, it's persistent.' "

 

"DRY, BUT NO DROUGHT - YET: Recent rains helped, but region remains near historic lows in precipitation, making experts wary," Mail Tribune, Sun., Jan. 12th, 2014, Page 1A Headline news. An in-depth look that reinforces the information in the previous articles, with details on snowpack, rainfall and reservoir totals thus far. A few highlights: "Crater Lake, normally covered by 70-plus inches of snow at this point in the year, reported about 9 inches at midweek. That followed a snowfall of about 5 inches. On Tuesday morning, the 4 inches at the park's weather station was the least since record-keeping began in 1931. // The thin layer covering the Mt. Ashland Ski Area has kept the ski lifts closed and prompted Mt. Ashland officials to hold a 'Pray For Snow' event Saturday. // ... A report released by NRCS last week said snowpack was at 32 percent of the normal levels statewide as of Jan. 1." The article concludes that: "Despite the bleak outlook, water officials say it's too early to panic. // Data from past years show sudden turnarounds can happen, that it only takes one big storm to turn an otherwise dry year wet... 'This February and March will need to have above-average snow accumulation if the 2014 snowpack is to rise above the lowest snow levels on record,' the NRCS report reads." Ultimately, everything depends on what occurs by April 30th. January is expected to stay mostly dry, however, so the burden lies with February and March to turn this scary situation around. Otherwise, we will be using the "D" word big-time.

 

"Water rationing challenges Rogue River residents (Neighbors in local trailer park are feeling the effects of a dry year)," Mail Tribune, Mon., January 6, 2014, pg. 3A. An excerpt: "After the big snow of Dec. 6, Rogue River Mobile Estates was higher and drier than ever. // "Pipes burst in the freeze that followed... / "The snow did little to relieve the driest year in Jackson County history, according to the National Weather Service."

 

"Dry year for Oregon, Washington - Snowpack suffers; one meteorologist predicts a warm summer ahead," by the AP and carried in the Mail Tribune, Thurs., January 2, 2014, Page 2A, spells out plainly the writing on the wall: "Snowpack levels across much of Oregon are below normal levels, following a year that was also the driest on record in Eugene-Springfield. // "National Weather Service meteorologist Colby Neuman in Portland said that the entire West Coast is dry. // "The U.S. Drought Monitor, released Dec. 26, showed abnormally dry to drought conditions across Oregon and abnormally dry conditions across much of Washington. Drought conditions were shown in other Western states, too. // "...Most Oregon counties are seeing snowpack levels of less than 50 percent of average." In addition, the article continues, some of the snow received earlier in the season has more recently melted, due to warmer temperatures, diminishing the existing snowpack. However, it is still January - so, where does this leave us? "Neuman told the Register-Guard," the article goes on, "there is time to rebound from the abnormally dry conditions in the next few months. But if that doesn't happen, he said that could create concerns for water supplies, plants and an early fire season. // "He noted four recent years with low snowpack - 1981, 1990, 1996 and 2005. In 1981 and 2005, dry conditions persisted through the winter, while heavy snowfall fell in the second half [of the] winter seasons in 1990 and 1996." The article concludes: "National Weather Service meteorologist Clinton Rockey of Portland said the second half of winter and spring are tough to predict. However, he said based on past weather patterns and ocean cycles, he can estimate the summer will be warmer than usual."

 

"Medford logs 2013 as its driest year since recordkeeping began," Wed., January 1, 2014, Mail Tribune, Page 4A, further reaffirmed the above reports: "...2013 turned out to be the driest year on record for Medford, Roseburg, Klamath Falls and the city of Mt. Shasta, Calif." The final total rainfall amount for the year for Medford was 8.99, not even half of the typical annual total of 18.25 inches. Klamath Falls broke its previous recorded low also set in 1959 by more than one inch; Roseburg surpassed its record set in 1944 by about seven inches; and Mt. Shasta broke its record from 1976 by more than four inches. The article also notes that, according to the NWS, December, 2013, was the coldest December ever recorded in Medford, with an average temperature of 31 degrees, just breaking the previous record set in 1972.

 

"2013: A look back" ("A glance at the top 13 stories as voted by the Mail Tribune newsroom staff"), Tues., December 31, 2013, Page 1A, headline story, confirmed the Dec. 20th MT report: Top story #2 states that "Medford experienced its driest calendar year on record : 8.99 inches of rain recorded..." (of the average annual total of 18.35 inches), which broke the previous record set in 1959, since recording began in 1911. (The arson fires in Medford ranked at top story #1, and the late- July dry lightning-caused fires ("80 fires") in southwestern Oregon including the five major fires that filled the Rogue Valley with unhealthy levels of smoke for much of August ranked at top story #3.)

 

"Dry Run: Recent storm aside, Medford well on its way to record-low precipitation," Mail Tribune, Fri. Dec. 20, 2013, Page 1A, headline story. Key points: 2013 is likely to be the driest year on record: Average annual rain is 18.35 inches as measured by the NWS in Medford, but 2013's total by Dec. 20th was only 8.97 inches, a new record low, originally set in 1959, which had almost as low a total at 10.43 inches. "Most Oregon municipalities are flirting with similar low-rainfall calendar years, in part because a dry fall has been followed by a cold and dry November and December that saw record lows in places such as Eugene and Lakeview." According to Steve Pierce, a "Pacific Northwest weather expert" interviewed for the article, the lack of moisture has been caused by normal tropical ocean temperatures that don't generate the La Nina or El Nino weather patterns that higher or lower tropical ocean temperatures do. The result is that "high-pressure systems instead have built along the Eastern Pacific, shutting off the jet stream and forcing arctic air masses that have left the region very cold and relatively dry." He further notes that "This is the most significant arctic outbreak since 1990." [That year is also remembered for its low early winter snowpack levels and the hot, dangerously dry fire season that followed.]

 

Fire-related news and summaries for current and previous fire seasons are available from our Fire Season News Archives page.


 

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