The Douglas Forest Protective Association responded to its 63rd fire of 2019 on Thursday.

The Melrose Heights Lane Fire located 6 miles west of Roseburg was human-caused and burned about 5 1/2 acres of grass before firefighters contained it and began mopping up hot spots.

On Wednesday, the DFPA announced 82% of fires started this year have been human-caused — the 10-year average is 74%.

After an illegal campfire burned more than 13,000 acres south of Canyonville in the Milepost 97 Fire, which started on July 24, the DFPA wants to remind people of the role they play in preventing fires, said DFPA spokesman Kyle Reed. He said paying attention to and obeying fire restrictions can prevent people from becoming liable for starting fires, which can amount to millions of dollars in damage and put people’s lives in danger.

“Probably the biggest frustration has just been the number of debris burn-related, illegal burn calls we’ve ran on,” Reed said.

The leading cause of fires this year has been debris burns and illegal equipment use such as mowing dry grass during restricted times. Eighteen fires have been caused by those categories.

Some debris burns that got out of control were started before the fire season began, when all unapproved debris burns were banned, Reed said. The DFPA hasn’t issued any debris burn permits this year, however.

“It’s always important for people to know and follow those restrictions,” Reed said.

Since the DFPA changed how it announces fire restriction, people have told Reed they’re easier to follow, he said. Instead of solely announcing the restrictions, a couple years ago the DFPA started associating them with the fire danger level. Instead of looking up the specific restrictions every day, people can simply look at the fire danger level.

It would be hard to determine whether that change is having a measurable effect on reducing wildfires, Reed said, but anything will help if it’s easier for people to comply.

Reed said there’s a wide range of responses DFPA firefighters get from people when they respond to a human-caused fire.

“You have everything from total compliance to situations where we have to have law enforcement come in to help us out with the situation,” he said, referring people who refuse to comply. “In those situations, our employee safety comes first so we back out and wait for law enforcement to come and help.”

As fire crews continue to respond to human-caused fires around the county, firefighters stationed at the Milepost 97 Fire have largely left the incident command center in Tri City.

It’s 95% contained and there are 113 firefighters still at the incident. Fire crews have recently pulled more than 20 miles of hose lines out of the area.

Reed said people can expect to see smoke rising from the interior of the fire throughout the summer, and the DFPA will continue to monitor the area.

Max Egener can be reached at megener@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217. Or follow him on Twitter @maxegener.

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City Reporter

Max Egener is the city reporter for The News-Review. He has a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and is an avid skier and backpacker.

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