MEDFORD, Ore. — The 2021 Fire Season is now at an end for Jackson and Josephine counties, the Oregon Department of Forestry announced on Wednesday. It began particularly early this year, on May 12, as the region saw unseasonably hot and dry conditions.
The declaration affects 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city, and Bureau of Land Management forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties protected by ODF, and eliminates all public regulated use restrictions and industrial fire precaution level requirements.
“This summer had the potential to be another devastating fire season in southern Oregon,” Acting District Forester Tyler McCarty said. “Despite that, ODF Southwest is thankful for the season we had – busy, but successful.”
ODF said that it responded to 278 fires during the 2021 season, with 273 acres burned. No homes were damaged or destroyed by wildland fires in Jackson or Josephine counties this year.
"ODF as an agency has a goal of stopping 98% of its fires at 10 acres or less; this year, the Southwest Oregon District nearly met this goal at 97.8%," officials said in a statement. "Year to date, the district has responded to 337 fires for 389 acres burned."
Forestry officials credited the successful season to aggressive initial attack strategies and well-trained firefighter crews, as well as other fire agency partners in the region — both federal and local.
“The relationships we have with our partner agencies are invaluable,” McCarty said. “The level of cooperation between Rogue Valley agencies was unparalleled this fire season, and made all the difference.”
The year got off to a challenging start, and ODF said that crews were responding to fires consistently from the first week of March forward. Before fire season was initially declared, ODF crews had already responded to 59 fires totaling 115 acres burned. Thirty of those were caused by debris burns that got out of control.
"Between above average temperatures and warm, windy conditions, fires in the spring spread much more easily, greatly contributing to the high number of pre-season incidents," ODF said. "Going into the season in mid-May, the majority of the district was experiencing an extreme drought, which also played a large part in the dry fuel conditions. Between the weather and dry vegetation, it was clear this fire season had the potential to be devastating."
The season was devastating for neighboring Douglas, Klamath, and Lake counties, where a number of fires grew to massive size. The Bootleg Fire became one of the largest fires in Oregon state history, reaching 413,717 acres before full containment, and destroying hundreds of buildings.
In southwest Oregon, the largest fire was the North River Road Fire, stopped at 60 acres in late June. The vast majority of fires in the district were stopped at six acres or less.
Fire season ended for Coos, Curry, and Douglas counties several weeks ago. Fire season ends for Klamath and Lake counties on Friday morning, stretching from May 15 to October 22 this year.
“The 2021 Fire Season was the longest we’ve had on record, lasting 160 days," said Dennis Lee, District Forester for Klamath-Lake ODF. "It was also one of the worst seasons in terms of drought and total fire acres burned in the South-Central Oregon area that I can remember. We are relieved to finally have enough moisture on the ground and continued in the forecast to be beyond the severe wildland fire threat we’ve seen so much of.”
The ban on open debris burning ends for Klamath and Lake counties with the official end of fire season. However, for all of Oregon, forestry officials still ask the public to use caution and practice fire safety.
"While fire season is officially over, fire prevention must continue," ODF said. "Please be vigilant while burning debris, ensuring that a burn pile is never left unattended. Also, please use caution while using machinery that could produce a spark. Fall weather in Southern Oregon can vary greatly. This region is extremely prone to fire, and for that reason, fire knows no season; please be aware that fires can still spread in fall and winter conditions."