SWEET HOME — It’s only May, but Oregon Department of Forestry firefighters have responded to about 10 escaped debris burns in the last two weeks, and Unit Forester Craig Pettinger is cautioning mid-valley residents to be extra careful as temperatures are expected to climb into the high 80s over the next few days.

“We’ve had unusually windy weather recently and we’ve had a lot of fire runs,” Pettinger said. “They haven’t amounted to much, but could have if we hadn’t gotten on them early. We are asking people to pay attention, and if it gets really warm, don’t burn anything.”

The mid-valley forecast calls for no rain through at least Sunday and daytime highs of 85 on Thursday, 87 on Wednesday, 85 on Saturday and 81 on Sunday.

Pettinger said that although the calendar says it’s only May, “fire season conditions are here.”

Several days with high winds have caused fuels to dry more quickly than usual.

Pettinger said he is using grant money to bring some summer fire team members on board early.

“I had a few guys start Monday,” Pettinger said.

The Oregon Department of Forestry’s Lane Unit has experienced the same spate of early-season fires.

Chris Cline, Lane District forester, said that as vegetation dries, it also poses extra fire hazards.

Cline said that recent fires in Lane County have been started when a lawnmower blade struck a rock and another when a man emptied his burning pipe tobacco on a mossy rock.

Instead of burning, the Oregon Department of Forestry recommends following these rules when disposing of yard debris:

• Seek alternatives to burning, such as chipping or hauling to a landfill.

• Call the local fire department or forest protection agency to see if a burning permit is required. Burning regulations are not the same in all areas.

• Have a shovel and charged garden hose at the burn site.

• Avoid burning during windy conditions.

• Scrape down to mineral soil around debris piles.

• Divide large piles into smaller ones; smaller piles are easier to control.

• Stay with the fire until it is completely out.

• Remember, unattended piles can spread quickly out of control. If a debris burn escapes, call 911 immediately.

Learn more at www.oregon.gov/odf or visit www.keeporegongreen.org for fire prevention information.

Contact Linn County reporter Alex Paul at 541-812-6114.

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