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Near-record temperatures, scattered fires prompt early ban on outdoor burning

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  • Mark Robinowitz
    http://www.registerguard.com/rg/news/local/29831345-75/fire-fires-lowell-saturday-ban.html.csp Near-record temperatures, scattered fires prompt early ban on
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2013
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      http://www.registerguard.com/rg/news/local/29831345-75/fire-fires-lowell-saturday-ban.html.csp


      Near-record temperatures, scattered fires prompt early ban on outdoor burning


      By Jeff Wright
      The Register-Guard
      PUBLISHED: 12:00 A.M., MAY 6


      The first weekend in May has been a cautionary one, with temperatures tying the record high in Eugene on both Saturday and today, crews mopping up three fires scattered across Lane County, and a ban on all outdoor burning invoked earlier than anyone can seem to remember.

      Fire officials decided Saturday night to impose the countywide summer outdoor burning ban, effective immediately. In typical years, the ban is not imposed until mid-June.

      “We came to a conclusion that it’s just too dry out there” to delay the ban any longer, said Lowell Fire Chief Keith Hoehn, whose department was one of several that responded to a 19-acre fire northeast of the Jasper-Lowell Road, between Fall Creek and Lowell.

      That fire and two others — a 10-acre fire near the Tokatee Golf Course at McKenzie Bridge, and a 20-acre fire off Raisor Road southwest of Cottage Grove Lake — began on Saturday and were in mop-up stages as of this afternoon, said Craig Pettinger, spokesman with the Oregon Department of Forestry.

      Roughly 30 to 35 people — from the state forestry department, rural fire departments, U.S. Forest Service and private timber companies — were attending to each of the three fires today, Pettinger said. Lines had been built around most or all of the fires, and no structures appeared to be in imminent danger, he said.

      The three fires were burning timber and brush, and erupted on Saturday amid temperatures in the low 80s and gusty winds. The McKenzie Bridge fire was caused by some downed power lines, Pettinger said. The cause of the Lowell-Jasper and Raisor Road fires remain under investigation, he said.

      The dry conditions are unsettling, Pettinger said.

      “Typically this time of year, once a fire hits shaded timber, it goes out,” he said. “But this stuff was burning through the timber like it was mid-August conditions.”

      Hoehn, the Lowell chief, said that in 39 years of firefighting he can’t recall so many wildland fires this early in the year.

      “This is a little too warm, too quick,” he said. “I like warm weather but I like a little bit of spring in between.”

      Hoehn said crews from the Dexter, Pleasant Hill, Goshen, Springfield and Mohawk fire departments also responded to the Lowell-Jasper fire. Humidity was low, temperatures were high, “and the winds were just amazing” on Saturday, he said. “We had a lot of branches and tree limbs on roads out there.”

      The official high in Eugene was 83 degrees on Saturday — tying a record for the date set in 1992 — and 86 degrees today, tying a record for that date set in 1953.

      Monday’s record high of 85, set in 1992, is not likely to be challenged, however. The forecast for Monday and the rest of the week is for highs in the mid-70s.

      “Instead of offshore flow we’re getting onshore flow, which brings cooler air inland,” said Kirsten Elson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland.

      “It’s that time of year where transitions happen, and it happened to happen early this year...lucky us,” said Elson of the offshore flow that allowed for weekend highs in the 80s. But while the summery weather may be over, “the week will still be mild,” she said.
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