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Fire-Related News - 2015

Local & regional news releases, articles & ODF bulletins

A chronological listing, with excerpts & links, for 2015

 

 

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.

 


 

2015 FIRE SEASON SUMMARY:  

 

The 2015 fire season started on Fri., June 5th, at Moderate fire danger, with IFPL Level 1 (Industrial fire precaution level One) declared by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry.

The fire danger level rose to HIGH on Sat. June 13th, with a 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm curfew on some regulated activities, and with the IFPL remaining at Level One.

The IFPL increased to Level 2 ("Partial Hootowl") on Wed. July 1st.

The fire danger level rose to EXTREME on Tues., July 28th, with an earlier 10:00 am to 8:00 pm curfew on regulated-use power equipment, and the IFPL remaining at Level 2 ("Hootowl" Partial shutdown).

On Sat., August 1st, a complete shutdown of all regulated power equipment went into effect, replacing the 10:00 am to 8:00 pm curfew of July 28th; the IFPL was raised to Level 3 (three) as well.

On Sat., August 29th, the ODF lowered the restrictions under Extreme, lifting the 24-hour ban on the use of regulated equipment and replacing it with a curfew on power equipment use from 10:00 AM until 8:00 PM; the IFPL was kept at Level 3.

On Wed., September 16th, the ODF lowered the posted fire danger level to HIGH (Yellow), also easing the restrictions on the use of regulated power equipment with a curfew from 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The IFPL was also lowered to Level 2 (two).

On Mon. October 19th, due to regional rains, the ODF lowered the fire danger level to moderate (blue), easing some but not all restrictions for the public; the IFPL was lowered to 1 (one).

On the morning of Wed., October 28th, following regional rainfall, the ODF declared the end of the 2015 fire season, ending all fire season restrictions.

The fire season chronology follows; a pre-season news archive is below.

 


 

The 2015 fire season ended Wed. am October 28, declared by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry, following regional rainfall. All fire season restrictions, including those on open and debris burning, were lifted.

Note: The Colestin Rural Fire District does not require burning permits. It is still necessary, however, to check with the County at (541) 776-7007 before conducting a burn to determine if current air quality conditions allow burning.

ODF's Wed. 10/28/15 news release follows:

 

October 28, 2015
Oregon Department of Forestry FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Southwest Oregon District SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd.
Central Point, OR 97502
Contact: Matt Fumasi, (541) 664-3328


Fire Season Ends Today

Fire season ended this morning on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District. Lands affected by this declaration include state, private, county, city, and Bureau of Land Management forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Fire season began June 5. During the 2015 fire season, the Southwest Oregon District had 247 fires that burned 262 acres. Lightning caused 53 fires that burned 89 acres. People caused 194 fires that burned 173 acres.

The fire danger level is “low” (green). 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

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

Fire prevention information is also available online at www.swofire.com.

View ODF's 10/28/15 news release "Fire Season Ends Today" (pdf).


###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

 


 

ODF's Mon. 10/19/15 news release lowering the fire danger level:

 

October 19, 2015

Oregon Department of Forestry - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Southwest Oregon District - SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd.
Central Point, OR 97502
Contact: Matt Fumasi, (541) 664-3328

Rain Brings Fire Danger Down to Moderate

The fire danger level on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District dropped to “moderate” (blue) today due to rain. The Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) is 1 (one).

Fire season remains in effect but many fire prevention regulations have been removed.

It is now all right to have campfires outside of designated campgrounds, but it is necessary to get the landowner’s permission before camping on private land, and to always ensure a campfire is extinguished before leaving camp.

Power-driven machinery may be used without restriction.

Vehicles are not limited to being driven only on improved roads.

However, the following fire prevention regulations remain in effect:

• No debris burning, whether in piles or burn barrels;

• No shooting with tracer ammunition;

• No exploding targets;

• No fireworks.

In the Wild & Scenic Section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial, campfires and charcoal fires are now allowed on sandy and gravel areas between the high water mark and where there is vegetation. Fires may only be started on fire pans or fire blankets, and 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 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
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

Read ODF's Mon. 10/19/15 news release in pdf format.

 


 

September 18, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA

Oregon Department of Forestry
5286 Table Rock Rd.
Southwest Oregon District
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 621-4156

 

Fire Prevention Regulations Eased in Wild & Scenic Section of Rogue River

The fire danger level decreased to “high” (yellow) this week in the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and the mouth of Watson Creek. The Wild and Scenic section of the river between Grave Creek and Marial is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and protected from fire by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District. The section of the river from Marial downstream to Watson Creek is managed and protected from fire by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.


The following fire prevention restrictions are currently in effect:

• 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.

• The use of fireworks is prohibited.

• Campfires, including cooking fires and warming fires, are prohibited. However, 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. Portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels may also be used.


For further information
about fire restrictions in the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River, contact:

• The Oregon Department of Forestry, Grants Pass Unit, (541) 474-3152
o www.swofire.com

• The Smullin Visitor Center located at the Rand National Historic Site at (541) 479-3735.

• The Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
o Medford: (541) 618-2200
o Grants Pass: (541) 471-6500
o http://ormic.org/index.html
o www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou

###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

 


 

ODF's Wed., September 16th, 2015, news release announcing the lowering of the fire level to HIGH (Yellow) and the easing of public use restrictions with a 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM curfew follows (some words are bolded here for reading purposes):

 

September 16, 2015

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) 665-0662 or (541) 621-4156

Fire Danger Level Drops to High Today

The fire danger level on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties has been lowered to “high” (yellow) today. The Industrial Fire Precaution Level has also been decreased to level 2 (two).
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.

Light rain and cooler temperatures across southwest Oregon have made it possible to ease off on some of the fire prevention regulations. However, very warm and dry weather is expected to return to the region by the weekend.

Restrictions on the public use of chain saws, brush cutters and other power-driven machinery have been relaxed a bit, allowing the use of equipment until 1:00 p.m. Before today, power-driven machinery had to be shut down by 10:00 a.m. Power-driven machinery use may resume after 8:00 p.m.


Other fire prevention regulations currently in effect, and which will remain in effect, 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, are prohibited;

• No sky lanterns may be used in wildland and forestland areas.

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

• Motorized vehicles are allowed only on improved roads;

• Chain saws may be used until 1:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. 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 allowed until 1:00 p.m., and may resume after 8:00 p.m. This restriction does not apply to mowing green lawns, or to equipment used for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops;

• The cutting, grinding or welding of metal are allowed until 1:00 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m. These activities may only take place at a site cleared of potentially flammable vegetation and other materials, and with a water supply 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.


Under Industrial Fire Precaution Level II:

• 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 or 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 public regulated use 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

Fire season information is also available online at www.swofire.com.

###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

View ODF's Wed., September 16th, 2015, news bulletin announcing the lowering of the fire level to HIGH (Yellow) and the easing of public use restrictions with a 1:00 PM to 8:00 PM curfew.

For more information on IFPLs, see ODF's IFPL Info page.

 


 

ODF's Sat. August 29th, 2015, news release announcing the easing of fire danger restrictions follows (some words are bolded here for reading purposes):

 

August 29, 2015

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) 621-4156

ODF Eases Equipment Use Restrictions

A small amount of rain across Jackson and Josephine counties has reduced the wildfire danger to an equal degree. This morning, the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District eased the public regulated use fire prevention restrictions to allow power equipment use until 10:00 a.m.

The Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) remains at Level 3 (three) and the public regulated use fire danger level stays at “Extreme” (red).

The public may now use power-driven equipment, such as chain saws and brush cutters, in the cool morning hours until 10:00 a.m., at which time power-driven machinery must be shut down. Equipment use may resume after 8:00 p.m. This regulation change also applies to other power-driven, spark-emitting equipment, such as wood splitters and generators. In all cases, a fire extinguisher or water supply must be available at the work site, and a fire watch of at least one hour must take place after equipment is shut down.

The cutting, welding or grinding of metal must also shut down between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. and may only take place in an area cleared of vegetation and other flammable material. A water source must be at the job site and a one-hour fire watch must be conducted after shut down.

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
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

View ODF's Sat. August 29th, 2015, news release announcing the easing of fire danger restrictions.

 


 

Aug. 19 & 20, 2015:  Brian Ballou, Fire Prevention Specialist for ODF's Southwest Oregon District, issued two fire prevention reminders:

Sky Lanterns May Not Be Used During Fire Season (Wed. 8-19-15) and

Power Equipment Use (Thurs. 8-20-15).

The first clarifies what sky lanterns are and reiterates the ban against their use.

The second clarifies and reiterates the complete shutdown (24-hour ban) on the general public's use of regulated power equipment and what equipment the shutdown covers.

The text of both bulletins is reproduced here (some text has been bolded):

 

August 19, 2015

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 or (541) 621-4156

Fire Prevention Reminder

Sky Lanterns May Not Be Used During Fire Season

Fire season in southwest Oregon continues to be extraordinarily hot and dry, and the Oregon Department of Forestry is committed to reducing the number of human-caused fires in forests and other wildland areas in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Releasing sky lanterns during fire season is one activity that is not allowed on ODF-protected lands. Fire season began June 5.

A sky lantern is commonly made of a lighted candle suspended beneath a plastic bag. The heat rising from the candle inflates the bag, which floats away and eventually returns to earth. If the lighted candle comes in contact with dry vegetation, a wildfire is likely to start.

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District protects 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, and Bureau of Land Management lands in Jackson and Josephine counties. Fire season regulations also apply in county, state and BLM day-use areas and campgrounds.

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

Fire season information is also available online at www.swofire.com.


###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

 

 

August 20, 2015


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 or (541) 621-4156

Fire Prevention Reminder

Power Equipment Use

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District imposed a complete shutdown August 1 on public use of power-driven machinery. This shutdown includes any equipment that uses a petroleum fuel-powered, spark-emitting engine. The list of equipment this restriction affects is long, but it includes chain saws, brush cutters, mowers and generators.

This restriction does not apply to cutting irrigated green grass, or to machinery used for the commercial culture or harvest of agricultural crops. It also does not apply to industrial activities, which are currently regulated under Industrial Fire Precaution Level III (three).

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District protects 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, and Bureau of Land Management lands in Jackson and Josephine counties. Fire season regulations also apply in county, state and BLM day-use areas and campgrounds.

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

Fire season information is also available online at www.swofire.com.

###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

 


 

"Fire investigators say the [26,452-acre] Stouts [Creek] fire apparently was caused by someone mowing grass in the afternoon when it was banned because of high fire risk. Fire officials say that because the person mowing was allegedly in violation of a regulated use closure, the individual may be liable for fire suppression costs and damages resulting from the fire"; costs to date total "$36 million." (source: the Medford Mail Tribune, Fri. 8/14/15 p.1A & Mon. 8/31/15 p.1A).

 


 

A POWER EQUIPMENT SHUTDOWN under "EXTREME" FIRE DANGER went into effect at 12:01 am Saturday, AUGUST 1st, detailed in ODF's news release on 7/29/15, "IFPL 3 - POWER EQUIPMENT SHUTDOWN," as follows:  (Some parts have been bolded here:)

 

July 29, 2015
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 or (541) 621-4156

 

POWER EQUIPMENT SHUTDOWN STARTS AUGUST 1 ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS IN SW OREGON

[General-Public:]  Chain saws, gasoline-powered brush cutters and mowers, and all other machinery using internal combustion engines are being shut down on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties starting Saturday, August 1.

Industrial operations, such as logging, must shut down most equipment by 1:00 p.m. starting Saturday when Industrial Fire Precaution Level 3 (three) takes effect.

These measures are necessary to prevent wildfires as much of the southwest portion of the state enters into a period of hot weather, low humidity and a threat of thunderstorms.

The public regulated use fire danger level climbed to “Extreme” (red) yesterday [Tues., July 28th] and will remain at that level for the foreseeable future.

“The fire danger is at its highest point right now,” said District Forester Dan Thorpe, “and there isn’t any relief in sight. On top of this, we’ve just seen a fire to the north of us cross the Umpqua River and quickly burn 270 acres. It’s time to take some additional steps to prevent other fires from starting in southwest Oregon.”

Southwest Oregon residents may continue to mow green lawns, and power equipment may be used for crop production and harvest on agricultural lands, but power machinery use in dry grass, forests and brushlands must end by Saturday morning. Welding and the grinding or cutting of metal – any activity that produces sparks – must also stop on ODF-protected areas starting Saturday.

Other public fire prevention regulations remain unchanged. Campfires may be used in county, state and federal campgrounds, unless otherwise posted. Vehicles are allowed only on improved roads. Smoking while traveling may only take place inside of an enclosed vehicle. Fireworks, tracer ammunition, exploding targets and sky lanterns are not allowed in wildland or forested areas.

 

Under Industrial Fire Precaution Level 3, the following fire prevention regulations take effect:

• 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 activity 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 online at www.swofire.com.


###


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

 

See ODF's 7/29/15 IFPL 3 - Power Equipment Shutdown news release. (pdf page)

For more information on IFPLs, see ODF's IFPL Info page.

 


 

ODF's 7/24/15 news release announcing the increase to EXTREME fire danger and an earlier 10:00 am curfew on regulated power equipment, effective Tues. July 28th: (Some original text has been bolded and/or underlined here for visual purposes.)

 

FIRE DANGER LEVEL INCREASES TUESDAY ON ODF-PROTECTED LANDS

The fire danger level on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry in Jackson and Josephine counties rises to “extreme” (red) at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, July 28. This affects 1.8 million acres of state, private, county and Bureau of Land Management lands within ODF’s Southwest Oregon District.

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

The primary difference between [previous] fire prevention regulations and those taking effect Tuesday [7/28] 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.

Here are the details of the adjusted fire prevention regulations taking effect on July 28:

• 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 firefighting 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 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.

• Motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, may only be used on improved roads, except when used for the commercial culture and harvest of agricultural crops.

• Fireworks are prohibited.

• Any electric fence controller in use shall be listed be a nationally recognized testing laboratory or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services; and operated in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

• The use of exploding targets is prohibited.

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

• The use of sky lanterns 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
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

You can also View ODF's news bulletin (pdf) or see ODF's website for info.

 


 

ODF's Mon. 6/29/15 post of Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) rise to Level 2 on Wed. July 1st:

 

Under Industrial Fire Precaution Level 2:

Partial Shutdown:

The following activities will not be permitted between the hours of 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., except as noted:

Power saws, except at loading sites;

Cable yarding;

Blasting;

The welding or cutting of metal.

Fire suppression tools and equipment must on the job site at all times;

Watchman service must be provided.

 

[For more information on IFPLs, see ODF's IFPL Info page.]

 


 

The ODF's 6/12/15 news release bulletin announcing the increase to HIGH fire danger on Sat. June 13th follows immediately below. (Some original text has been bolded and/or underlined here for visual purposes. You can also View ODF's bulletin (pdf) or see ODF's website for info.)

 

June 12, 2015

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 or (541) 621-4156


Fire Danger Level Jumps to High on Saturday

The fire danger level on Oregon Department of Forestry-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties will increase to “high” (yellow) on Saturday, June 13. 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.


Fire prevention regulations currently in effect, and which will remain in effect, 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, are prohibited;

• No sky lanterns may be used in wildland and forestland areas.


Starting Saturday at 12:01 a.m., the following regulations will go into effect:

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

The cutting, grinding or welding of 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.


For more information
about the Oregon Department of Forestry’s public regulated use 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

Fire season information is also available online at www.swofire.com.


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

###

 


 

Also on Fri., June 12th, 2015, the ODF also issued the following:
(Some original text has been bolded or underlined here for visual purposes. You can also View ODF's bulletin (pdf) or see ODF's website for info.)

 

June 12, 2015

Oregon Department of Forestry  -  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Southwest Oregon District  -  SOUTHWEST OREGON NEWS MEDIA
5286 Table Rock Rd., Central Point, OR 97502

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest
3040 Biddle Rd., Medford, OR 97504

Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 665-0662 or (541) 621-4156
Brian Lawatch, (541) 618-2113


FIRE DANGER RISES IN WILD & SCENIC SECTION OF ROGUE RIVER

The fire danger level will increase to “high” (yellow) on Saturday, June 13, in the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River between Grave Creek and the mouth of Watson Creek. The Wild and Scenic section of the river between Grave Creek and Marial is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and protected from fire by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District. The section of the river from Marial downstream to Watson Creek is managed and protected from fire by the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.


The following fire prevention restrictions are currently in effect:

• 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.

• The use of fireworks is prohibited.


Starting Saturday, June 13, the following fire prevention restriction takes effect and is in addition to the restrictions currently in effect in the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River. It applies to open fires:

• Campfires, including cooking fires and warming fires, will be prohibited. Charcoal fires for cooking and built in raised fire pans, and portable cooking stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels, 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 the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River, contact:


Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

###

 


 

ODF's news release bulletin announcing the start of fire season follows.
(Some original text has been bolded here for visual purposes. You can also View ODF's bulletin (pdf) or see ODF's website for info.)

 

June 2, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oregon Department of Forestry
Southwest Oregon District
5286 Table Rock Rd.
Central Point, OR 97502

Contact: Brian Ballou, (541) 665-0662 or (541) 621-4156

Fire Season Begins Friday

Fire season begins Friday, June 5, at 12:01 a.m. on lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Southwest Oregon District. Lands affected by this declaration include state, private, county, city, and Bureau of Land Management forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.

“This will be the third drier-than-normal fire season in a row for southwest Oregon,” said District Forester Dan Thorpe, “and both Jackson and Josephine counties are struggling with drought conditions.”

The public regulated use fire danger level will be “moderate” (blue) and the Industrial Fire Precaution Level will be 1 (one).

Beginning Friday, the burning of debris piles and the use of burn barrels for burning debris will no longer be allowed. Other public regulated use restrictions on ODF-protected forestlands include:

• No fireworks;
• No tracer ammunition or exploding targets;
• No sky lanterns.

In the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River, between Grave Creek and Marial, the following public regulated use restrictions also go into effect on Friday:

• 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;

• 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;

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

• No fireworks.

Concurrent with the ODF fire season declaration, public use restrictions are now in effect for the U.S. Forest Service portion of the Wild and Scenic Section of the Rogue River. For more information, visit the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/rogue-siskiyou. For additional information on Forest Service fire danger levels and Industrial Fire Precaution Levels, go to http://ormic.org/fire_danger.shtml

Under Industrial Fire Precaution Level 1 on ODF-protected lands, 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

Fire season information is also available online at www.swofire.com.

###

Brian Ballou
Fire Prevention Specialist
ODF Southwest Oregon District
Office: (541) 665-0662
Cell: (541) 621-4156
brian.ballou@oregon.gov

 


 

The following is an archive of the 2015 pre-season outlook:

 

Fire Season Outlook:  

March 24, 2015 (Tues.): "13 Oregon Counties: Jackson among counties in drought program - Low-interest loans available through federal disaster program," (Mail Tribune, p. 1A, by Kelly House, The Oregonian):

"Oregon's worsening drought has triggered a federal disaster loan program in 13 Oregon counties, including Jackson and Josephine." California's Siskiyou County is also included.

"The U.S. Small Business Administration has announced that low-interest loans meant to offset economic losses associated with the drought are now available for small, nonfarm businesses" in the counties listed; "farmers in those counties are also eligible for emergency aid through the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

"While Jackson County's precipitation total is slightly above normal for the water year, warm temperatures mean little of that moisture has been stored in the form of snow..."

"The federal agencies opened up their aid programs in Oregon in response to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's announcement last week that most of Oregon is in drought disaster mode..." [...}

"As the nightmare scenario of a fourth straight hot, dry summer becomes increasingly likely, Oregon wildlife officials, firefighters, farmers and ranchers are preparing for the worst." [...]

"Oregon Department of Forestry officials are bracing for a fourth straight long, devastating fire season.

" 'Instead of 1- or 2-acre fires in the spring we've been seeing 20- and 30-acre fires,' Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Rod Nichols said."

A 3/23/15 edition of this story is available online, also titled, "Jackson among counties in drought program," at: http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20150323/NEWS/150329861/0/.
(This is a "Premium" article and will use up 1 of 3 free clicks/month allowed for nonsubscribers.)

 


 

March 20, 2015 (Fri.): "Mt. Ashland hopes for spring snow: Coming storm could bring snow to higher elevations" (Mail Tribune, p. 1A, by Vickie Aldous):

Noting the hope for snow from the recent storm system, this article also observes that the ski area "has been closed since Sunday," [March 15th], "after warm temperatures and rain melted snow at the bottom of runs and around chairlift loading zones." The upper mountain snow depth of "above 50 inches this week," [March 16-20] hasn't helped lower areas.

Ski area General Manager Hiram Towle declared that the resort would re-open if there were " 'enough snow,' " but that " 'It is going to take a significant amount... because we lost quite a bit at the lower elevations around the lifts.' " Workers have moved snow around to compensate for low-snow areas, but that requires extra accessible snow.

The National Weather Service forecast for Fri. 3/20 through Tues. 3/24 included a chance of snow with levels lowering initially to 6,000 feet, and later in the storm system, to 4,500-5,000 feet, below the ski area's base elevation of 6,338 feet.

[UPDATE: Although light snow did materialize, it was not enough to allow the ski park to re-open: As of Tues. evening, March 24th, the resort's website at mtashland.com posted a "Closed for season" notice; only 5 inches total fell during the previous week. The Base Snow Depth was listed at only 13 inches, with the Upper Snow Depth still at 52 inches.]

Also mentioned is the very low snow totals down in Mt. Shasta, where that ski park has remained closed throughout this past winter; as of March 20th, "It has no snow at its base and only 10 inches higher up the mountain."

A 3/19/15 version of this story is available online, there titled, "Mt. Ashland hopes coming storm will reopen ski area," at: http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20150319/NEWS/150319536/0/.
(This is a "Premium" article and will use up 1 of 3 free clicks/month allowed for nonsubscribers.)

 


 

March 14, 2015 (Sat.): "Gov. Brown to declare drought emergency," (Mail Tribune, p. A4, by Kelly House, The Oregonian), provides a drought conditions update:

According to this article, based on an assessment from the Oregon State Drought Council, Gov. Kate Brown was preparing to sign documents as early as Monday, March 16th making a declaration of drought official for Lake and Malheur counties, with similar declarations for Harney and Klamath counties expected to soon follow.

"The U.S. Drought Monitor, which measures risk of drought nationwide, shows an ominous red splotch over more than a quarter of Oregon, with nearly all of Lake, Malheur and Harney counties completely engulfed in 'extreme drought' ... // "Much of the rest of the state is facing severe to moderate drought..."

Not only has the snowpack this winter been "startlingly low," but "meteorologists say peak snowpack has already come and gone," and that "any new snowfall won't be enough to offset the ongoing melt." The result, in addition to water shortages, is that "Oregon and surrounding states could be in for a summer of wildfires..."

The above article is available online, also titled "Gov. Brown to declare drought emergency," at: http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20150314/NEWS/150319739/0/.
(This is a "Premium" article and will use up 1 of 3 free clicks/month allowed for nonsubscribers.)

 


 

March 12, 2015 (Thurs.): "Extreme Weather: Warm February takes its toll on snowpack - In Oregon, 45 percent of snow-monitoring sites are snow-free," (Mail Tribune, pA4, The Associated Press, Seattle):

"Warmer temperatures and a lack of snowfall in February have taken a toll on winter snowpack in the Cascade Mountains and other areas in the West, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service said Wednesday [March 11].

"One-third of monitoring sites in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada reported the lowest snowpack ever measured as of March 1, and some sites don't even have snow, unusual for this time of year." [...]

"Snow that falls in the mountains during the winter typically melts slowly during spring and summer, providing water for much of the region. A lack of snowpack can lead to drought..."

"The snowpack in the Western U.S. is counted on to be an additional reservoir that holds a whole bunch of water, so that water is released slowly as the snow melts..."

"Snow surveyors in many places across the region reported seeing little or no snow at sites they visited. In Oregon, for example, about 45 percent of the snow-monitoring sites are snow-free."

A 3/11/15 version of this article is available online, there titled "Warm February takes toll on West's snowpack,", at: http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20150311/NEWS/150319881/0/.
(This is a "Premium" article and will use up 1 of 3 free clicks/month allowed for nonsubscribers.)

 


 

March 6, 2015 (Fri.): " 'It seems inevitable': Catastrophic wildfires expected this summer," (Mail Tribune, page 1A top, main col., News, Environment, by Mark Freeman), starkly expresses the seasonal outlook we most dread:

"Record low snowpack amid a second straight year has wildland managers bracing for what they consider an upcoming wildfire season in which catastrophic fire in the Cascades or Siskiyous 'seems inevitable' .

"State and federal wildfire experts said Thursday in Medford that they expect mid- and high-elevation forestlands to be prime for generating a 2015 fire season that will start earlier, last longer and likely burn hotter than normal in this area known for summer fires.

"With minimal or no snow around places such as Howard Prairie and Mount Ashland, the sun's rays that normally would melt snow and wet the forest instead will be cooking it tinder dry this spring, making slopes more able to carry flames and more susceptible to fire starts caused by lightning downstrikes.

"Forest Service and BLM teams are training firefighters earlier than most years while trying to help amass resources that will help combat fires expected to break out if the region sees a repeat of last year's 130,000 lightning strikes...

"The primed fuels ranging from downed and dead trees to brush killed during the intense freezes in the 2014 winter will mean fire crews will require larger safety zones around fires and potentially alter attack plans..."

The above comments were part of a briefing for Oregon's U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, who "also announced the securing of more than $2 million in U.S. Forest Service grants to curb wildfire risks ... in the Ashland watershed," as part of the ongoing "Ashland Forest Resiliency Project" that focuses on clearing the forest floor, thinning and burning projects "designed by the Forest Service and implemented by private contractors," much of it done by The Lomakatsi Restoration Project. [. . .]

"Thursday's upbeat discussion of the Ashland project was t[e]mpered by what federal wildfire officials were calling the worst pre-season wildfire conditions in at least 25 years."

Read the above article in full online, there titled "Catastrophic wildfires expected in Southern Oregon this summer", at: http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20150305/NEWS/150309767/0/.
(This is a "Premium" article and will use up 1 of 3 free clicks/month allowed for nonsubscribers.)

 


 

March 1, 2015 (Sun.): "Climate Change: Recent weather patterns could be a preview of what's to come if predictions hold true: Agriculture, Forests, Tourism, Housing: The new normal?" (Mail Tribune, page 1A top, main col., Sunday Focus, by Vickie Aldous), a lengthy, comprehensive article, discusses the many ramifications of climate change and its impact on wildland fires and firefighting.

Key points:

Global temperatures are not only increasing, but the increase is accelerating: "From 1895 to 2011, average temperatures in the Northwest increased 1.3 degrees. Temperatures are predicted to climb 3.3 to 9.7 degrees by 2070 to 2099, as compared to 1970 to 1999, according to a 2014 National Climate Assessment..."

" 'The average temperature goes up and down, but the trend over the last 100 years has been up. We are in global warming,' says Medford-based National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Sandler." Sandler also clarifies that "the overall context of warming is making milder winters more likely."

Greg Jones, an academic division director at SOU and an internationally known researcher of the impact of climate change on the wine industry, observes that " '... the past two years have been the warmest on record in most of the western United States and Oregon' ," and that " 'Climate change models are saying that our region should have more rainfall and less snowfall.' " A significant difference, however is that "rainfall is not spread out," and instead comes in large amounts during single weather events. This past February, for example, the Ashland area "recorded 3.93 inches of rainfall over 48 hours - its third-highest two-day total since 1892."

Besides raising water management issues, less snowpack impacts snow-dependent recreation: Although the Mt. Ashland Ski Area was able to reopen after a month of closure in early February, "the ski area is adapting to less snow. Workers harvested snow off the parking lot and other parts of the mountain to use on ski runs."

Most significantly, diminishing winter snowpacks mean an increasing risk and probability of more intense wildland fires due to the volume of fuels that dry out and become volatile earlier in the year, leading to longer, more catastrophic fire seasons:

"If [global] temperatures rise by 2.2 degrees, the Rogue Valley and mountains straddling the Oregon and California border will see a 300 to 400 percent increase in areas burned by wildfire, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment." The original article includes a map showing "the projected increases in Oregon lands burned due to climate change."

In addition to lowering tourism, "[i]ncreased wildfire could worsen respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses in nearby populations because of smoke and particulate pollution, the assessment predicts."

Proactively, the City of Ashland has engaged in "a multi-year, multimillion-dollar" wildfire fuel thinning project in the hills above town that will "trim trees and brush from thousands of acres in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project."

The article quotes Oregon Dept. of Forestry spokesman Brian Ballou: "[T]his year's mild winter is setting the area up for another busy wildfire season," and that "forecasts call for intense fire years to become the norm":

" 'We're in for more aggressive wildfire seasons,' he says. 'The cost of firefighting goes up, and firefighters are engaged in fighting fires more months of the year. With very dry vegetation, typically we have more intense fire behavior and a risk of more fires. Fire seasons will be more and more expensive if forecasts play out. It's not a rosy situation at all when you look at future scenarios.' "

Another cause of increasing costs and challenges for firefighters, according to Ballou, is population increase in forest areas, otherwise known as urban-rural interface zones, where homes are surrounded by fuels. Yet another factor Ballou mentions is Increasing "competition for resources" amongst firefighting agencies.

Given the many risk factors, including lightning, the ever-unpredictable wild card, Ballou discusses the urgent need to reduce wildfire fuels, which is the one thing that individual residents can do to help prepare for the threat of extreme fire events:

"...[I]t makes more sense to invest money in proactive forest-thinning projects to reduce fire fuels. Fuels reduction is less expensive than fighting intense fires, he says. // 'Doing well-planned mitigation would be a far more effective way of protecting resources, reducing the number of days smoke is in the air and cutting firefighting costs - not to mention preventing the loss of homes to wildfires' ."

Read the above article in its entirety online, there re-titled "The new normal under climate change?", at: http://www.mailtribune.com/article/20150301/NEWS/150309957/0/.
(This is a "Premium" article and will use up 1 of 3 free clicks/month allowed for nonsubscribers.)


As always, the CRFD encourages our residents to engage in wildfire fuel-thinning projects when and where possible, and in general, to establish and maintain fuel breaks around homes and other structures.

See our Wildland Fire Prevention page as well as reviewing information on some possible fuel-thinning assistance sources (below on this page):

The Lomakatsi Restoration Project;

The Oregon Dept. of Forestry's fuel reduction grant program;

Forestry consultant and contractor Marty Main; and

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, run out of the Klamath Falls Fish and Wildlife Service Office.

Grants and other funding assistance for fuel-thinning projects may also be available through the sources listed here.

 


 

Feb. 18, 2015 (Wed.): "Spring in February: Northwest basks in record high temps," an AP report from Seattle in the Mail Tribune (P. A5), noting that "[t]emperatures have crept north of 60 degrees," observes that "[t]his isn't a typical February in the Pacific Northwest," and that "[t]he Northwest has had a record-breaking winter, but for warm temperatures." Calling it "one of the mildest winters" in the Northwest, meteorologists ascribe the unseasonal weather to El Nino, which typically produces "drier winters and wetter falls." This year's El Nino "went from weak to neutral" but is still in effect "throughout the region," with a glaring result: "Nearly all ski resorts in western Washington have partially closed their operations or shut down completely. There hasn't been enough snow."

 


 

Feb. 12, 2015 (Thurs.): According to the Mail Tribune's front-page story, "Ski area officials praise snow," Mt. Ashland received "21 to 31 inches of snow" from the storm systems that moved through our region during the previous week. All lifts were expected to be in operation over Presidents Day weekend "after the biggest storm in two years dumped plentiful snow on the mountain. // "The base snow depth was at 26 inches while upper snow depths reached 57 inches, according to measurements taken earlier this week."

Mt. Ashland appears to be an anomaly throughout our region, however: "The Mt. Shasta Ski Park in Northern California remains shuttered, with only 5 inches at the base and 10 inches higher up the mountain . . . [T]he Willamette Pass ski area outside Eugene, Hoodoo Ski Area near Sisters and the Warner Canyon ski area outside Lakeview are among the Oregon resorts closed by low snow." There was one bright spot in the story - up near Bend, in central Oregon: "The Mt. Bachelor resort has had plentiful snow and picked up another 19 inches during the past seven days."

[This isn't about elevation, however; although Mt. Bachelor is 9,065 feet at its highest elevation and Mt. Ashland is 7,500 feet at the top, Mt. Shasta, at 14,179 feet, is nearly twice that of Mt. Ashland. (For comparison, Hoodoo is 5,703 feet; Willamette Pass ski area is 6,683; and Warner Canyon ski area is 6,003 feet.) Instead, it appears that we just got lucky this time.]

To put this in perspective, the historical annual average snowfall at Mt. Ashland is 300 inches, or 25 feet; the current 57 inches is only just over one-sixth of that amount.

Although our snowpack remains well below normal, even with the recent storms, our water year is more promising at this time: the gauge at the Medford airport, from which we derive our seasonal total figure, is at 12.82 inches; the normal seasonal total to date is 11.43 inches. Based on weather records dating from 1928, the average annual total rainfall for Medford to Ashland is approximately 19 inches; this is about two-thirds of the way there, just ahead of the curve as of this date.

A separate report on statewide conditions, "Oregon snowpack below average," also in the Feb. 12, Mail Tribune (front-page, sidebar), provides additional perspective:

"[T]he Oregon snowpack is well below average despite normal precipitation this winter" due to high [elevation] snow levels that "have prevented the accumulation of mountain snow that is needed to maintain stream flows through the summer." . . . the snowpack is less than half of average in western and central portions of Oregon. Eastern parts of the state are a little better but still below average. The Oregonian reports some monitoring stations near Mount Hood have recorded no snow for the first time in three decades."

In other words, winter snowfall is again much less than it should be, even though it is locally somewhat better than last year. This is true not just here but across much of the West. It is becoming a trend - the new "normal" - whether we use the "double-C" word or just stick with the "D" word to describe it.

While Rogue valley irrigation and water districts will have some water this summer, low mountain snowpack levels will inevitably impact those of us living at higher elevations, and will, amongst other things, produce a potentially treacherous fire season. Unless this situation changes, this is the reality we must prepare ourselves for.

 


 

According to the Mail Tribune's front-page story on Sat., January 31, 2015, "High and dry: Record low snowpack worries irrigators, resorts," this year's snowpack thus far has set a new record at "just 18 percent of average - less than the 22 percent of average that set a record this time last year." Some places, according to the Portland-based Natural Resources Conservation Service, are at even lower levels, such as Diamond Lake, which by Fri. [Jan. 30th] was still listed as "snowless, something that's never been seen there," and Howard Prairie Reservoir, which "limped into this winter nearly dry from last year's summer drought" and is now "ice-free and snowless from a warm January." Although winter officially has nearly two months still when this could change, "Federal climate forecasters are predicting continued warmer-than-average temperatures," suggesting any moisture will materialize as rain, not snow. That said, any moisture is preferable to drought, and equal chances for normal precipitation are still in the outlook.

On Sun., January 4, 2015, the Mail Tribune reported a similar story: "Drought-plagued reservoirs need the white stuff to recover." An excerpt:
" Meteorologist Steve Pierce's message is everyone should have a good idea by Jan. 15 whether this current winter creates reservoir recovery in Jackson County or not. // Ocean currents are favoring an El Niño pattern that typically generates warmer storm patterns that bring more rain than snow to southwestern Oregon, a pattern that historically doesn't help snow-dependent reservoirs such as Hyatt, Howard Prairie and Emigrant. // Typically, mid-January snowpack can foreshadow what lies ahead for the rest of the winter in the Cascades, Pierce says. // "If we get to Jan. 15 without a good snowpack in the Cascades, the odds go way down that we'll get to average," says Pierce, president of the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society."

According to the NOAA's most recent drought report (released Jan. 15th), our region is between "Severe (D2)" and "Extreme (D3)" drought. The outlook through this April (also released Jan. 15th) indicates that "Drought persists or intensifies" in our region. This designation also covers nearly 3/4 of Oregon (excepting the northwest quarter), all of the upper 2/3 of both California and Nevada, and much of southeastern Washington, northern Utah, and southwestern and central Idaho.

The latest Drought summaries (narratives) to date by region, with short-term (week-ahead) projections, show that, in the Pacific Northwest, "So far, winter has not been markedly wet or dry in general across the Cascades, but it has been warmer than normal, and snowpack is low for this time of year. As a result, D0 ["abnormally dry"] conditions were expanded to cover the Oregon Cascades..."

The NOAA's 2014 Global Climate Recap report has also just been released, with findings that "In 2014, the combined land and ocean surface temperature was 1.24°F (0.69°C) above the 20th century average, making the year the warmest since records began in 1880. [. . .] The 20 warmest years in the historical record have all occurred in the past 20 years. Except for 1998, the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2002."

Finally, according to NOAA's Climate Prediction page, the 3-month temperature outlook for our region as of mid-January is for a "60-percent chance" of "higher-than-normal" temps, while the 3-month precipitation outlook for the same period is for "equal chances" for "normal" precip.

As early as last September, a weak El Nino weather pattern was in the longer-range forecasts for this winter, suggesting a warmer and drier winter. (See "Winter forecast: Clear skies ahead? Early predictions of an El Nino winter give way to talk of another dry season," Mail Tribune, p. 1A, Sun., Sept. 14, 2014.) According to that report, "most models" for early winter showed "drier than normal, transitioning to equal chances" for precipitation later in the season. While later-February, 2015, water totals have improved, warmer than usual temperatures have prevented much of the needed snowpack from forming.

 


 

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


 

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