MEDFORD, Ore. — Friday marks the end of the second-longest Fire Season southwest Oregon has ever seen, the Oregon Department of Forestry has announced.
The longest recorded season happened in 1988 and was just nine days longer than this one. ODF firefighters battled 220 wildland fires throughout the season, totaling roughly 40,494 acres.
"This total fire count does not even include the number of alarms firefighters responded to related to fire restriction violations, assisting our local partners, and smoke chases throughout Jackson and Josephine Counties; crews responded to more than 1,400 calls for service that did not result in fire suppression," ODF said in a statement.
Fire Season began incredibly early, on May 1, due to unseasonably dry conditions. But unlike the 2018 season, which saw a flurry of lightning-sparked fires in southern Oregon by early July, it wasn't until late July in 2020 that the first large fire broke out. The Worthington Fire burned 761 acres about five miles northeast of Eagle Point. The 325-acre Grizzly Creek Fire north of Howard Prairie Lake did not spring up until the beginning of September.
But unprecedented winds and dry conditions on September 8 brought devastation unlike southern Oregon has ever seen. The Almeda, South Obenchain, and Slater fires all began on the same day, pushed by winds "typically only experienced once every 20 years," ODF said.
"The loss of lives, homes and structures will forever be remembered by fire crews," the agency continued.
But despite that event, and the new hurdles posed by COVID-19, ODF reported that 97 percent of all fires in Jackson and Josephine counties were held to ten acres or less.
"We accredit this not only to our aggressive initial attack and well-trained team, but our countless partners throughout our region that have helped to make this season a success," ODF said.
Fire Season's end also means that restrictions on debris burning and power equipment have been lifted, both for the public and industrial operations on forestlands. Regardless, local fire agencies may require permits for debris burning — ODF says to check with your fire department to get any necessary permits before burning.
"While fire season is over, fire prevention must continue," ODF concluded. "Please be vigilant while burning debris, making sure 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."