TALENT, Ore. — Firefighters received multiple calls this morning about a fire burning west of Talent. It turned out it wasn’t a wildfire, but an effort to eliminate a pear tree disease.
Workers at a Harry and David orchard off Royal Crest Road in Talent were out burning branches and shoots infected with the disease.
“Fire blight can take out an entire orchard, ”said Orchard Operations Director Matt Borman
Even though burning is prohibited in Jackson County until the end of fire season, agriculture operations can get a special permit from county air quality to burn the infected limbs. Borman said the blight was recently spotted in the orchard, and said it needs to be burned quickly to stop it from spreading.
“Those infections have just shown up in the last couple of weeks, so there’s really no way to have gotten to those prior to this point in the season.”
Some nearby farmers and ranchers expressed concern that the burn could cause embers to fly into nearby fields and cause a grass fire. One neighbor said he has made several complaints about the burns in Harry and David’s orchard. Other neighbors said they would like the company to delay the burns until temperatures cool down.
“It’s concerning that they’re allowed to burn in this extreme heat,” said Mike Hoffman, who manages the nearby Royal Crest Ranch. “There’s too high of a chance of an ember flying off and landing in a dry field.”
“Let’s not risk somebody else’s farm, ranch, or life.”
But firefighters say the orchard workers take steps to prevent fire danger. The burn piles are in a well irrigated area, and people are on hand to keep it under control. Fire District 5 chief Dan Marshall said orchardists are always extremely careful during a burn.
“At least from my experience, we haven’t had any grass and brush fires as a result of agricultural burning,” he said.