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  • Fire danger will be high starting July 4

    Recent heat wave has increased the potential for fires in Southern Oregon, officials say
  • The fire danger in Jackson and Josephine counties will heat up to the high level beginning Independence Day.
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  • The fire danger in Jackson and Josephine counties will heat up to the high level beginning Independence Day.
    Citing an unusually dry spring and recent broiling temperatures, the Oregon Department of Forestry said the increased restrictions are a necessary precaution, given the explosive potential for wildfires in the region.
    "With the high temperatures and the area being drier than normal, we are bumping up the restrictions," said Caitlin Goins, spokeswoman for ODF's Southwest Oregon District, which blankets the two counties.
    The local start of high fire danger comes about a week earlier than last year.
    With Thursday being the Fourth of July, officials are urging the public to use extreme caution when celebrating the holiday because of the growing fire danger.
    "We want to make sure people use fireworks only where they are allowed," she said. "As far as forestland, no fireworks are permitted on any forest."
    Residents should check with local authorities if they have any questions regarding the use of fireworks, she said.
    Wildland fire starts are running about 30 percent higher this year compared to last year on lands protected by the district, she said. So far this year, there have been 109 fires, compared to 89 last year at this time. Of the 109, 85 were human-caused this year, she said.
    The district covers 1.8 million acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management, state, county and private lands.
    "We're looking at the possibility of lightning for the next two days," Goins said. "We will have extra patrols out."
    The public can assist firefighters by being cautious when outside and following the increased restrictions, she said.
    When the district boosts the fire danger to high on Thursday, the public-use restrictions will include:
    • No debris burning, including piles and debris burned in burn barrels.
    • No fireworks are permitted on forestlands.
    • No use of tracer ammunition, any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base or explosive targets on forestlands.
    • No use of sky lanterns.
    • 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 can't be used between 1 and 8 p.m. During the hours chain saws can be used, operators must have an ax, shovel and 8-ounce or larger fire extinguisher at the job site. A fire watch is required for one hour after the saw is shut down.
    • No mowing of dead or dry grass with power-driven equipment is allowed between 1 and 8 p.m. The harvest of agricultural crops is exempted.
    • No cutting, grinding or welding of metal is permitted between 1 and 8 p.m.
    • Smoking while traveling in forested, brushy or dry grass areas will be allowed only in enclosed vehicles on improved roads.
    • In the Wild and Scenic section of the lower Rogue River between Grave Creek and Marial, all open fires will be prohibited, including campfires, cooking fires and warming fires.
    Reach Mail Tribune reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or pfattig@mailtribune.com.
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