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SWEET HOME — Although the mid-valley's expected to enjoy milder temperatures and rainfall this week, Craig Pettinger of the Oregon Department of Forestry warns it would be a good idea to burn off those backyard debris piles as quickly as possible.

“We usually go into burn ban season about mid-June, but we’re probably not going to make it that far this year,” he said. “It’s dry and we don’t know how this precipitation is going to wet things down for any length of time.”

A temporary burn ban went into effect last Thursday and was expected to last through Monday, but was called off a day early due to more favorable weather conditions.

“We didn’t see a lot of problems over the weekend, but last Thursday and Friday were pretty chaotic,” Pettinger said. “Burning was allowed, but winds picked up and there were several fires.”

Pettinger said that a tree limb fell on a power line on Bellinger Scale Road Thursday.

“Fortunately, a Lebanon firefighter was driving by and saw the limb and the fire,” he said. “Everyone jumped on it and it was held to less than a half-acre.”

Pettinger said another fire was on Santiam Terrace. A landowner had sprayed an area with grass killer and was clearing a spot to put bee boxes. He was using a propane torch and lit off one area and thought it was in good shape, when he lit off a second.

“The wind picked up and it took off,” Pettinger said.

Also on Friday, a small debris burn escaped on Kingsbury Road, but Pettinger said it didn’t amount to much.

“We had some pretty good winds Thursday and Friday,” he said. “The wind was steady at 15 miles per hour and then there were gusts.”

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Pettinger said three of the 14 summer firefighters are on duty and he brought in staff over the weekend.

“We never bring folks on this early in the year,” Pettinger said.

The Springfield-based East Lane unit wasn’t as fortunate, he added, as it contended with an 80-acre fire late Friday that got into a slash pile.

“We had three helicopters on it, plus a lot of heavy equipment,” Pettinger said. “It was three or four miles out of Cottage Grove, up the Row River. One structure was lost.”

The mid-valley is expected to see milder temperatures with daily highs in the low 60s and overnight lows in the mid-40s at least through early next week. Precipitation from showers to light rain are forecast daily through the same time period.

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

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