The Watts Mine Fire, located near Williams, OR
JACKSON & JOSEPHINE COUNTIES, Ore. (April 24, 2023) – The Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest Oregon District responded to and extinguished the first fires of 2023 on ODF-protected lands in Jackson and Josephine counties on Monday, April 24, 2023. Reported off of the 16000-block of Water Gap Road in Williams, the Watts Mine Fire was caught at a little more than three-quarters of an acre by midday Monday. It affected Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, and the cause is currently under investigation.
Around 2:45 p.m., ODF was requested by Jackson County Fire District 5 to respond as mutual aid to a grassfire on the 1500-block of Tyler Creek Road off of Highway 66, southeast of Ashland. The Tyler Creek Fire burned an estimated two acres on private land and was also quickly extinguished. The cause of this fire is under investigation.
A third fire was reported shortly before 4 p.m. near Birdseye Creek, south of Rogue River. Jackson County Fire District 1 was able to quickly extinguish it at a small size, and the cause will be under investigation. No homes or buildings were impacted by any of these incidents.
These fires are a good reminder that, while snowpack levels are higher than in recent years, rainfall in the valleys is still below average and a slight drought persists across southern Oregon. With warm and windy conditions forecasted this week, the risk of fires spreading naturally increases. While fire season has not been declared in Jackson and Josephine counties yet, southern Oregon is naturally prone to wildfire due to the topography, vegetation types and climate. This shift in weather signals the potential for fires on the landscape.
Residents should be aware of the added risk, especially when debris burning. Debris burns can reignite in these predicted weather conditions weeks to months following the burn, and should be checked for any heat on or below the surface.
The majority of fires ODF responds to are caused by humans accidentally; this means with precautions, a lot of fires around communities in southern Oregon can be prevented. If an activity can throw a spark or produce heat, there’s a risk of fire. This risk can easily be mitigated by having a water source on hand like a bucket of water or a charged hose. While firefighters are ready to respond to wildfires, together, we can also work to prevent them from even starting.