New coordinator for Jefferson County Smoke Management program reports on last season.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Rebecca Keegan, the smoke management coordinator for Jefferson County, gives a report at the Farm Fair and Trade Show Feb. 6. 
Rebecca Keegan, the new smoke management coordinator, reported on last season's program at the Central Oregon Farm Fair and Trade Show.

The farmers' field burning season ran for nine weeks, from July 23 to Sept. 21, 2018, and farmers paid a fee per acre to burn.

"Weeks three, four, five and six were our busiest weeks for burning, and we had nine complaints this year, with four from the same person," Keegan said.

A total of 8,424 grass stubble acres were burned, and 2,010 wheat stubble acres burned, for an overall total of 10,434 acres.

A large volume of wildfire smoke was also in the area for many weeks, which created some concern about field burning in the local community.

"We also had to close down burning for two days this year for farmers, due to a shortage of fire personnel," she explained.

Keegan, who also works for the Jefferson County Fire District, asked farmers during the off season, if they are going to burn a pile of old hay or straw to call the fire department and tell them, to save firefighters from responding if someone reports it as a fire.

"This was my first year, and I felt that it went well. I have some ideas to make things on my end flow better, but the growers were able to burn what they registered with minor complaints. It was a pretty successful year," she said.

Smoke Management Program member Mike Weber reported that the program has $30,000 in carryover funds this year, so farmer's burn fees won't have to be raised. "We are self-regulating and the DEQ is very pleased with the way our program is run," Weber added.

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