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CURRY FIREFIGHTERS BRACING FOR DRY SEASON

Brookings and Harbor firefighters extinguish a burning pile of driftwood near the mouth of the Winchuck River. ().
Brookings and Harbor firefighters extinguish a burning pile of driftwood near the mouth of the Winchuck River. ().

By SCOTT GRAVES

While areas throughout the U.S such as Colorado and Southern California are dealing with devastating wild fires, things are just reaching the critical point in Curry County – spurring officials to start fire season Monday.

"If we get a fire up the Chetco River, we could be in trouble," Brookings Fire Chief Bill Sharp said Friday.

"We've seen some conditions up river that scare us – and we still have a lot of summer to go."

Firefighters got a taste of what may come Friday when personnel from the Brookings and Harbor fire departments responded to a pile of driftwood set afire on the beach near the mouth of the Winchuck River. No homes were in danger. An investigation into the fire was still ongoing as of late Friday.

With the start of fire season at 12:01 a.m. Monday, all types of outside burning, including burn barrels, in Curry County will be restricted, Sharp said.

The season activates restrictions on both public and industrial forest use on all private, county, state and Bureau of Land Management lands as well as rural fire districts within CFPA's protection boundaries.

This means the end of unregulated outside burning for people living in Coos, Curry and parts of Douglas counties. Written permits and on-site inspections will be required for all types of outside burning, including debris burning and burn barrels. Permits are free.

"We're the last county in the state to start fire season; mostly because of the fog and moisture here on the coast," Sharp said.

That moisture, however, only impacts the immediate coast, leaving inland areas no less than a mile from shore quickly turning brown and tinder dry, he said.

Even on the coast, he expected vegetation to be "quite brown and dry" by September and October.

Sharp said he recently mailed out weed abatement letters to property owners within Brookings city limits whose land contained tall weeds and overgrown vegetation.

"We've gotten pretty good compliance so far," he said.

Burning in Curry County is allowed by permit in burn barrels from sunrise to 10 a.m., and open burning by permit until 4 p.m. The only material that can be burned in barrels is paper and wood products.

To obtain permits, residents in areas such as Pistol River, Cape Ferrelo, Upper Chetco, the Winchuck River and outside incorporated cities should contact the Coos Forest Protection Agency at (541) 469-2302. Residents of Gold Beach may call (541) 247-7029 or City Hall. Harbor residents may call the Harbor Fire Department at (541) 469-5301.

Brookings residents can sign up to receive a fire burning inspection at Brookings City Hall, fire department or police department.

For information, Brookings residents may contact Sharp at 469-2166, ext. 215. Burning information can also be obtained by calling 469-0288.

Sharp encouraged homeowners and property owners to cut the tall grass and brush to reduce fire risks throughout the summer.

Industrial regulations will also go into effect Monday. Industrial Fire Precaution Level 1 prohibits smoking while working on or traveling through an industrial operation. Specified fire tools and suppression equipment must be maintained at all operations. A three-hour watchman service is also required at all industrial operation sites unless waived or modified in writing by a fire warden.

Changes in the Industrial Fire Precaution Level apply to all contractors and permit holders working on private, county, state and Bureau of Land Management lands.

Non-industrial firewood cutters must have an 8-ounce fire extinguisher and a shovel. Power saws must be equipped with an approved screen.

As fire season progresses, additional closures and restrictions may be imposed as weather conditions become more severe.

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