Medford Fire-Rescue begins controlled burns

East Medford, Ore. —  Did you see smoke, maybe even flames, Wednesday in East Medford? Don’t worry, it was all controlled by Medford Fire-Rescue. It’s all in preparation for fire season in just a few months.

This is the first of several controlled burns this season near Prescott Park on Roxy Ann. While Medford Fire-Rescue conducts these burns annually, the piles were burning much faster than last year. Which could, potentially, hint at this year’s fire season.

“Last year when we did this, it was actually fairly difficult to get the piles burning,” said Deputy Chief Justin Bates, Medford Fire-Rescue.

This year, not so much.

“The piles are burning much faster and hotter,” Deputy Chief Bates said.

Medford Fire-Rescue has more than 200 of them to torch before summer.

“If they’re burning like they are right now, you can imagine how they would be in July or August,” Deputy Chief Bates said.

The lack of rain and snow this winter didn’t help.

“We know in the heat of the summer, any little fire up here is going to move and stuff is going to catch on fire really rapidly. We have a lot of scrub brush and oak and some Manzanita that just grows up here – this stuff is almost like weeds, honestly,” Deputy Chief Bates said.

Weeds that can feed a fast fire. That’s why crews are out at Roxy Ann, burning away the fuel.

“Gas and diesel mixture that we have in that can that he’s holding and he’ll light that edge and just let that back burn down the hill,” Deputy Chief Bates said.

A laboring task that helps assure the safety of nearby residents and valuable resources.

“We have the radio tower on top of the hill that’s very important and there’s a lot of money up there that we don’t want a very devastating fire to come through and burn some of that stuff up,” Deputy Chief Bates said.

The official start of fire season is determined by the Oregon Department of Forestry. While each year is different, fire season is normally declared sometime in June.

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